Trial of Stem Cells for Parkinson’s Disease on Horizon

Jun Takahashi, Stem Cells for Parkinson's Disease
Dr. Jun Takahashi, professor at Kyoto University, is working on Stem Cells for Parkinson’s Disease.

Is a treatment based on stem cells for Parkinson’s Disease on the horizon? A Japanese team of researchers led by Dr. Jun Takahashi, professor at Kyoto University is reportedly aiming to start on human studies of an induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cell-based treatment for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) as early as fiscal year (FY) 2014.

In Japan the FY runs from April 1-March 31 so FY2014 would begin in about 10 months.

That is still remarkably fast and encouraging in the battle against PD.

It also more broadly is an indication of the accelerating pace with which Japan is aiming to translate iPS cell technology to patients. Jun Takahashi (pictured above in CIRA photo) is part of the larger team working to make iPS cell-based therapies a reality for helping patients.

The Asahi Shimbun article reads:

“We hope to confirm the effectiveness and safety over the coming year or two before proceeding to the stage of clinical research,” Takahashi said during a lecture in Tokyo on June 6.

At Scripps in La Jolla, CA, Jeanne Loring leads another team, this one working with PD patients, working to apply iPS cell technology to treat PD.

I asked Jeanne about this new report of Dr. Takahashi’s plan and have the following quote from her:

I met Dr. Takahashi a few months ago at a CIRM workshop on Parkinson’s disease, and saw some of his very convincing work.  His experiments with transplanting cells in non-human primates supports the idea that dopamine neurons from autologous iPSCs are more likely to be therapeutic.  Since our project plans to transplant patient-specific iPSC-derived dopamine neuron progenitors, this is great news for us. In this case, I don’t feel like this is a competition, and I’m happy to follow in Takahashi’s footsteps.

Dr. Takahashi has published quite a bit on PD’s more generally including treatment of a monkey PD model using a hESC approach that was encouraging from a safety and efficacy standpoint.

I hope we can soon see some of Takahashi’s pre-clinical data on iPS cells for PD published soon so we can get a sense of the safety and other information.

Overall this seems like very good news for the stem cell field and Parkinson’s Disease community.