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April 9, 2020

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Local scientists make Parkinson’s headway

Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s happen when neurons die. So far, there is no cure but Shanghai scientists have found a way to transform other cells into neurons.

Neurons act as a bridge between the brain and the rest of body. If they die, the brain has no way of sending messages to muscles and organs, and that results in the loss of function and control of movements.

As neurons stop reproducing shortly after birth, many researchers are focusing on stem cell transplants to treat Parkinson’s, in which human embryonic stem cells are used to give rise to neurons.

Researchers from the Center for Excellence in Brain Science and Intelligence Technology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences took an unconventional approach.

Using an advanced gene-editing technology, they “produced” dopamine neurons by transforming astrocytes, which largely outweigh neurons in the nervous system.

Experiments were performed on Parkinson’s disease mice, which showed that symptoms such as tremors, stiffness and slow movements basically disappeared after they received the induced cells.

The research report was published in scientific journal Cell yesterday.

Globally, about 100 million people suffer such diseases. Of them, nearly 10 million have Parkinson’s, half of that number are in China. The death of dopamine neurons results in Parkinson’s.


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