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A new sort of stem cell is aimed at Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease, which degenerates motor function and speech, results from a loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. Drug treatments cannot always relieve the tremor and loss of balance caused by the disorder.

Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) have shown promise as a means of regenerating the lost cells, but scientists have been on the lookout for alternatives to ESCs that can be easily obtained from adult patients.

In experiments reported online in the April issue of the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Medicine, Yale researchers led by Hugh Taylor, M.D., professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences, explored the therapeutic potential of cells from the lining of the uterus, or endometrium. Regularly regenerated after menstruation, this tissue is a rich source of stem-like cells in adults. In a mouse model of Parkinson’s, transplanted endometrial cells migrated to damaged brain tissue and differentiated into dopamine-producing neurons, significantly raising dopamine levels.

“Endometrial tissue is probably the safest, most easily attainable source of stem cells currently available,” says Taylor. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg for what we will be able to do with these cells.”