Researchers at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ) in Brazil have used a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved anti-cancer drug to grow dopamine-producing neurons derived from embryonic stem cells. These cells remained healthy and functional for as long as 15 months after implantation into mice and restored motor function without forming tumours.
“Brief exposure to an anti-cancer drug of pluripotent stem cells turned the transplant safer, by eliminating the risk of tumour formation”, said the leader of the study Stevens Rehen. Parkinson’s is caused by a depletion of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain.
Although studies have shown that motor functions in animal models improve upon transplantation of embryonic stem, the procedure is deemed unsafe because it carries the risk of tumours formation.
The procedure of pre-treating the undifferentiated mouse embryonic stem cells with mitomycin C, a drug already prescribed to treat cancer, appears to address the issue. The substance blocks the DNA replication and prevents the cells from multiplying out of control.