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Brain Cell Transplant helps Parkinson's Patient

May 14, 2020 by Kamran Ahmed

In a medical first, a team of neurosurgeons has treated Parkinson's with a brain cell transplant, Stat News revealed. George Lopez from California became the first Parkinson's patient to be successfully treated with the novel intervention that involved transplanting brain cells made from his own "reprogrammed" skin cells.

The breakthrough comes tens of years after the preliminary failed experiment to transplant dopamine cells, the loss of which is a leading cause of motor skills in Parkinson's patients. The novel treatment was carried out by a team of neurologists that included Harvard stem cell biologist Dr. Kwang-Soo Kim.

Dr. Kwang-Soo Kim
Kwang-Soo Kim, PhD

Lopez, 69, got his first dopamine neurons transplant in 2017. According to the neurosurgeons who worked on the experimental treatment, the dopamine neurons were developed from stem cells extracted from the patient's own skin.

Lopez was suffering from the loss of motor skills because of the lack of enough dopamine in his brain. He was joyous after receiving his first neurons transplant. After the second treatment session, he was able to resume swimming that he had stopped due to fears of his symptoms becoming worse. Lopez has also regained the ability to tie his shoes now.

The team of neurosurgeons said they would provide the details of the breakthrough intervention in a medical journal this week. While this progress is still quite far from concrete proof that Parkinson's can be fully treated, it provides a glimmer of hope against the disease that affects 60,000 people in the United States every year.

In 2009, Dr. Kim first introduced the concept of developing stem cells from patients' own skin cells and then creating brain cells from the stem cells to treat severe neurological diseases. But the lack of funding led him to abandon his research in 2013. One lucky day, he received an email from Lopez, offering $2 million to fund his experiment.

Lopez has Parkinson's, and his symptoms were deteriorating. He has now become the first person with Parkinson's to be successfully treated with brain cell transplant – a new treatment Lopez himself funded to develop.

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