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Reprogramming Brain Cells Important First Step for New Parkinson’s Therapy, Penn Study Finds

Researchers convert astrocytes directly into dopamine-producing nerve cells of the midbrain

PHILADELPHIA – In efforts to find new treatments for Parkinson’s Disease (PD), researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have directly reprogrammed astrocytes, the most plentiful cell type in the central nervous system, into dopamine-producing neurons. PD is marked by the degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the midbrain. Dopamine is a brainchemical important in behavior and cognition, voluntary movement, sleep, mood, attention, and memory and learning.

“These cells are potentially useful in cell-replacement therapies for Parkinson’s or in modeling the disease in the lab,” says senior author John Gearhart, PhD, director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine (IRM) at Penn. The team reports their findings in PLoS One.

“Our study is the first to demonstrate conversion of astrocytes to midbrain dopaminergic neurons, opening the door for novel reprogramming strategies to treat Parkinson’s disease,” says first authorRussell C. Addis, PhD, a senior research investigator with IRM. Click here to read the rest of the article.

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