Rights: © Copyright. 2011. University of Waikato. All Rights Reserved. Published 9 November 2011 Download

LCT is trialling encapsulated pig cells to treat type 1 diabetes, but this technology may also be applied to other diseases with cell loss. For example, in patients with Parkinson’s disease, specific brain cells progressively die out causing slowness of movement, tremor and poor balance. LCT is transplanting pig cells from a region of the brain called the choroid plexus. Cells in the choroid plexus release hormones that can stimulate new brain cell growth. This treatment has shown promising results in animal models of Parkinson’s disease.

Bob Elliott (Living Cell Technologies
The idea of using live cells that are protected from rejection for the treatment of diabetes can be extended out to other diseases, a whole raft of other diseases, characterised by cell loss or death of cells in the body. And one we’ve become particularly interested in is the death of cells in the brain which make dopamine and cause the disease Parkinson’s disease.

Parkinson’s disease may be found in up to 10% of the population over the age of 70. It’s progressive due to cell loss in the brain. Now the original approach here from others has been to replace those cells by transplanting human cells that make dopamine, and that has not been particularly successful.

What we’ve done is something quite novel. The brain is capable of repairing itself and then making new cells, and it looks like this is under the control of hormones made by the brain itself from cells placed deep within the cavities inside the brain, called the choroid plexus. So you can get these cells out of the brain which make these hormones, you can put them in these capsules and deliver them to the part of the brain that needs new cells.

Now we’ve done this in animal models of Parkinson’s disease where these cells are being deliberately depleted, killed, and put these cells which stimulate regeneration within the brain in that area, and wow, what we see is repopulation of that area of dead cells with new cells, generated from the animal’s own brain itself and the disappearance of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It’s a very, very new approach, pretty exciting stuff actually, and we think has a high chance of success in that disease.

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