Researchers at Yale School of Medicine have found that endometrial stem cells when injected into the brains of laboratory mice with Parkinson's disease appear to restore the functioning of brain cells damaged by the disease.
The study can be found in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
These early results are encouraging, said Alan E. Guttmacher, M.D., acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), the NIH Institute that funded the study. Endometrial stem cells are widely available, easy to access and appear to take on the characteristics of nervous system tissue readily.
Parkinson's disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement.
This is the first time that researchers have successfully transplanted stem cells derived from the lining of the uterus, into brain tissue and shown that these cells can develop into cells with the properties of that tissue.
In the study, lead author Hugh S. Taylor, M.D., professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences at Yale School of Medicine and his colleagues collected and cultured endometrial tissue from nine women, and verified that they could be transformed into dopamine-producing nerve cells like those in the brain.
According to the researchers, stem cells derived from endometrial tissue appear to be less likely to be rejected than are stem cells from other sources.
However, the study did not examine the longer-term effects of the stem cell transplants or evaluate any changes in the ability of the mice to move. The researchers are aware that additional research would be needed to evaluate the safety and efficacy of the technique before it could be approved for human use.
Endometrial tissue is probably the most readily available, safest, most easily attainable source of stem cells that is currently available. We hope the cells we derived are the first of many types that will be used to treat a variety of diseases, said Dr Taylor. I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we will be able to do with these cells.