Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that initially affects the motor system followed by mental and behavioral problems later. Symptoms include rigidity, shaking, slowdown, difficulty walking, thinking, depression, and dementia.


The cause of Parkinson’s Disease is unknown, but probably involves both genetic and environmental factors. The result of PD is a lack of dopamine production within the midbrain and it is believed that this is responsible for the physical symptoms observed in these patients.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease and conventional treatment is directed at trying to improve symptoms. This includes oral medications to replace dopamine, physical therapy, and deep brain stimulation.

Stem Cell research for PD is focused on trying to increase dopamine producing neurons within the midbrain. Neuronal growth factors seem to play an important role when used with stem cell treatment and seem to be on the horizon as a viable and effective treatment for improving the quality of life for PD patients.

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The most current research regarding stem cells and PD is given below:

Parkinson's disease mice and human umbilical cord blood.
Ende N, Chen R.

Abstract: In 1995, it was suggested that immature stem cells (Berashis Cells) existing in human cord blood might have an ameliorating effect on such neurological diseases as Alzheimer's, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and Parkinson's disease. Since these predictions, we have been able to successfully extend the length of life of mice with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis [B6SJL-TgN(SOD1-G93A)IGUR], Huntington's Disease (B6CBA-TgN(H.Dexon1)62Gpb and Alzheimer's mice [Tg(HuAPP695.SWE)2576]. Recently we expanded the studies to include mice with Parkinson's Disease. 32 mice, 6-12 weeks old B6CBACa-AW-J/A-Kcnj6 were obtained from Jackson Laboratory, Bar Harbor, Maine. The mice were divided into 3 groups: (A) 10 untreated control mice, (B) 10 mice treated with 5.6 x 10(6) congenic bone marrow mononuclear cells and (C) 12 mice receiving 100-110 x 10(6) HUCB mononuclear cells intravenously. No immunosuppression was used. When 50% of the controls were dead only 1 of the 10 mice receiving congenic marrow and 2 out of 12 mice that received cord blood mononuclear cells were dead. This preliminary study was terminated when the animal's were 200 days old, at that time one out of 10 controls was alive. Out of 10 mice that received congenic bone marrow, 2 were alive. Out of 12 mice that received megadoses of cord blood mononuclear cells 4 were alive. Survival curve of mice that had congenic marrow had a p value of <.05; the survival curve of mice receiving cord blood mononuclear cells had a p value <.001 (Fig 1) compared to controls. Human umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells significantly delayed the onset of symptoms and death of Parkinson's disease mice. This effect was greater than that produced by congenic bone marrow cells.


Parkinson's Disease and Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Potential for Cell-Based Therapy
Masaaki Kitada and Mari Dezawa

Abstract: Cell transplantation is a strategy with great potential for the treatment of Parkinson's disease, and many types of stem cells, including neural stem cells and embryonic stem cells, are considered candidates for transplantation therapy. Mesenchymal stem cells are a great therapeutic cell source because they are easy accessible and can be expanded from patients or donor mesenchymal tissues without posing serious ethical and technical problems. They have trophic effects for protecting damaged tissues as well as differentiation ability to generate a broad spectrum of cells, including dopamine neurons, which contribute to the replenishment of lost cells in Parkinson's disease. This paper focuses mainly on the potential of mesenchymal stem cells as a therapeutic cell source and discusses their potential clinical application in Parkinson's disease.

Conversion of Human Umbilical Cord Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Wharton's Jelly to Dopaminergic Neurons In Vitro: Potential Therapeutic Application for Parkinsonism
Yu‐Show Fu, Yun‐Chih Cheng, Maan‐Yuh Anya Lin, Henrich Cheng, Pei‐Ming Chu, Shih‐Chich Chou, Yang‐Hsin Shih, Miau‐Hwa Ko, Min‐Shan Sung Ph.D.

Abstract: Human mesenchymal stem cells isolated from Wharton's jelly of the umbilical cord were induced to transform into dopaminergic neurons in vitro through stepwise culturing in neuron‐conditioned medium, sonic hedgehog, and FGF8. The success rate was 12.7%, as characterized by positive staining for tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), the rate‐limiting catecholaminergic synthesizing enzyme, and dopamine being released into the culture medium. Transplantation of such cells into the striatum of rats previously made Parkinsonian by unilateral striatal lesioning with the dopaminergic neurotoxin 6‐hydroxydopamine partially corrected the lesion‐induced amphetamine‐evoked rotation. Viability of the transplanted cells at least 4 months after transplantation was identified by positive TH staining and migration of 1.4 mm both rostrally and caudally. These results suggest that human umbilical mesenchymal stem cells have the potential for treatment of Parkinson's disease.