Scientists reveal breakthrough in brain cell repair around Parkinson’s disease

Scientists reveal breakthrough in brain cell repair around Parkinson’s disease

Neuroscientists at NUI Galway have made a breakthrough in regenerative medicine approaches to the neurodegenerative condition Parkinson’s disease.

The research was published today in the Nature journal, Scientific Reports.

Parkinson’s is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement leading to a progressive deterioration in ability.

The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement.

Picture depicts brain repair in Parkinson’s: transplanted brain cells survive better when implanted in collagen. Photo: NUI Galway
Picture depicts brain repair in Parkinson’s: transplanted brain cells survive better when implanted in collagen. Photo: NUI Galway

Brain repair for Parkinson’s involves replacing the dead cells by transplanting healthy brain cells back into the brain, but the widespread roll-out of this therapy has been hindered by the poor survival of the implanted cells.

The research, carried out by a team at the Galway Neuroscience Centre and CÚRAM, the Science Foundation Ireland Centre for Research in Medical Devices, based at NUI Galway, has shown that the survival of the transplanted cells is dramatically improved if they are implanted within a supportive matrix made from the natural material collagen.

Commenting on the research, lead author of the research paper, Dr Eilis Dowd at NUI Galway, said: “The collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process.”

The work will be presented at the upcoming Network for European CNS Transplantation and Restoration (NECTAR) conference which is being hosted by Dr Dowd in Dublin from the 6–8 December 2017.

The event will feature leading scientists from the US, Canada, Australia, Belgium, Denmark, France, Ireland, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK, who will present their latest research on brain repair for Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

This NUI Galway research was also presented recently at the International Neural Transplantation and Repair (INTR) conference in Port Douglas, Australia by Niamh Moriarty, the PhD student working on the project. Niamh was awarded a highly competitive Travel Award from the Campaign for Alzheimer’s Research in Europe which enabled her to present her work at this leading international event.

The research was recently featured in the short documentary Feats of Modest Valour, produced through CÚRAM’s Science on Screen programme.

The film won the coveted Scientist Award at the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York in October, and was screened on RTÉ One for Science Week 2017. The documentary is available to watch on the RTÉ Player until 11 December 2017.

This research was funded by Science Foundation Ireland and a Government of Ireland Irish Research Council PhD Scholarship to Niamh Moriarty.

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