By Pete Blanchard,Â WHCU Health Reporter
Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have revealed a new brain cell therapy that could be a major breakthrough to treat Parkinsonâ€™s disease.
Parkinsonâ€™s disease is a neurological disorder that affects an estimated one million Americans. Itâ€™s a condition associated with the loss of dopaminergic neuronsâ€”cells that produce the important neurotransmitter dopamine.
Dr. Christoph Proschel, Ph.D. is a molecular and cell biologist at University of Rochester Medical Center and lead author of the study.
He said dopamine has received all of the focus in Parkinsonâ€™s studies, but he and researchers have found dopamine is only just part of the picture.
â€śWeâ€™ve actually approached this problem from a very different angle, which is rather than just simply replacing the cells that are lost, we looked at the whole picture,” Proschel said.
As part of the study, researchers isolated a population of brain cells called astrocytes.Â When they implanted these astrocytes into the brains of rats that displayed signs of Parkinsonâ€™s, they found that the astrocytes allowed neurons in the brain to restore their activity and reacquire their ability to make dopamine.
â€śWeâ€™re thinking of these astrocytes like a repair crew that restores the environment so that the cells that are still there can do their job,” he said.
Researchers say the work reveals a promising approach to not only treat Parkinsonâ€™s disease, but a variety of neurological afflictions.
The study appeared in the European journalÂ EMBO Molecular Medicine.