NPF Statement Regarding Stem Cell Treatment of Parkinson's

Release date: 11/7/2011

Published yesterday in Nature and covered in today’s Wall Street Journal is an article about a new approach to using stem cells to address dopamine cell depletion in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease.  The authors, Dr. Lorenz Studer and colleagues from the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, Rush University Medical Center, and NPF Center of Excellence Northwestern University, report to have addressed some of the major challenges experienced in prior stem cell therapy trials and have tested their approach in mice, rats, and monkey models of Parkinson’s.

We are thrilled with the achievement of Dr. Studer and his colleagues and hope that his approach will solve the problems encountered in prior efforts with cell transplantation.  Adding this success to many promising therapies currently in development, it appears increasingly likely that a major breakthrough in therapy for Parkinson’s disease is on the horizon.

While a better approach to cell transplantation would be a welcome advance and could provide relief for millions of people with Parkinson’s world-wide, it would not obviate the need to address the broader spectrum of symptoms and the underlying pathology of Parkinson’s disease.  The dopamine system is but one of many neural systems affected in Parkinson’s, and in people with the disease, we still need to address progression.  We hope that this success translates into relief for patients, and that it inspires future success in treating the symptoms of later-stage disease and addressing the underlying pathology.
Michael Okun, MD
National Medical Director 
National Parkinson Foundation