Pig brain cells implanted into brains of people with Parkinson’s

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Living Cell Technologies, based in Auckland, New Zealand, has been developing a treatment that uses brain cells from the choroid plexus in pigs. This brain structure makes a cocktail of growth factors and signaling molecules known to help keep nerve cells healthy. The disease is caused by the gradual loss of brain cells. That make dopamine compound that helps control our movements. Current medicines replace the missing dopamine, but their effectiveness wears off over the years.

Choroid plexus cell implantation

Surgery conducted and completed on a further 18 people in a medicine controlled trial, using the choroid plexus cell implants. Membrane homogenates of pig choroid plexus are known to have exclusively serotonin (5 -hydroxytryptamine, 5-HT) receptor of the subtype 5-HT1c.  The hope is that compounds made by these cells will maintain the remaining dopamine-producing cells. In the patients’ brains, slowing further loss. The approach has been successful in a rat version of Parkinson’s disease.

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Pig cells placed inside porous coating of alginate (salts present in walls of brown algae). Made from seaweed allows growth factors to move into surrounding brain tissue. yet should stop patients’ immune cells from entering to attack the pig cells. Approaching with pig pancreas cells implanted in people with diabetes.

Each alginate capsule is about half a millimeter wide and contains about a thousand pig cells. In the first small trial, four people had 40 capsules put in one side of the brain. The team have recorded an average improvement among these people of 14 points.Measured on a 199-point scale of symptom severity. Gauges things such as how well people can walk and cut up their food. But scientists says that could have been due to a placebo effect, as people improved immediately after the surgery.

One concern with such animal-to-human transplants is that viruses lying dormant within the pig DNA called porcine. Endogenous retroviruses could cross over into people and start a new disease. But this hasn’t happened so far in those who have received pig pancreas cells for diabetes.

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Larger trial

In this ongoing trial, people have had up to 120 capsules put in both sides of their brains. Another kind of cell therapy for Parkinson’s that has shown some success uses implants of dopamine-making brain cells taken from aborted fetuses. But such tissue is hard to obtain. There are also hopes of turning adult stem cells into dopamine-producing cells. This can be done using patient’s skin cells rule out the risk of any immune rejection of the implants.

In addition, pig brain cells are being investigated as treatments for other diseases caused by nerve cells dying, including Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s,causes movement and cognitive problems. As the choroid plexus cells release a cocktail of different growth factors, they may prove helpful for treating these other disorders involving nerve cell damage.

 

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