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Stem cells from adult nose tissue used to cure Parkinson’s disease in rats

Scientists have for the first time used adult human stem cells to “cure” rats with Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative illness that currently has no cure. The study, published in the current issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine, details how a team of researchers working in Germany at the University of Bielefeld (UB) and Dresden University of Technology were able to produce mature neurons using inferior turbinate stem cells (ITSCs).

ITSCs are stem cells taken from tissue that would generally be discarded after an adult patient undergoes sinus surgery. The team then tested how the ITSCs would behave when transplanted into a group of rats with Parkinson’s disease. Prior to transplantation, the animals showed severe motor and behavioral deficiencies. However, 12 weeks after receiving the ITSCs, the cells had migrated into the animals’ brains and functional ability was not only fully restored, but significant behavioral recovery was witnessed, too. In another positive sign, no tumors were found in any of the animals after the transplantations, something that also has been a concern in stem cell therapy.

“Due to their easy accessibility and the resulting possibility of an autologous transplantation approach, ITSCs represent a promising cell source for regenerative medicine,” said UB’s Barbara Kaltschmidt, Ph.D., who led the study along with Alexander Storch, M.D., and Christiana Ossig, M.D., both of Dresden University. “The lack of ethical concerns associated with human embryonic stem cells is a plus, too.”

“In contrast to fighting the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with medications and devices, this research is focused on restoring the dopamine-producing brain cells that are lost during the disease,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. These cells are easy to access and isolate from nasal tissue, even in older patients, which adds to their attraction as a potential therapeutic tool.”

The full article, “Intrastriatal transplantation of adult human neural crest-derived stem cells improves functional outcome in Parkinsonian rats” can be accessed at