In a 12-person clinical trial, a biotech company called BlueRock Therapeutics successfully implanted artificial cells into Parkinson's patients specifically designed to produce the very dopamine they lack. From MIT Technology Review:
The replacement neurons were manufactured using powerful stem cells originally sourced from a human embryo created an in vitro fertilization procedure.
There are also hints that the added cells had survived and were reducing patients' symptoms a year after the treatment.
These clues that the transplants helped came from brain scans that showed an increase in dopamine cells in the patients' brains as well as a decrease in "off time," or the number of hours per day the volunteers felt they were incapacitated by their symptoms.
To be clear, with only a twelve-person trial, it's difficult to conclude whether this was just a placebo effect, or whether these artificially implanted neurons actually made a significant long-term difference in the patients. If the latter turns out to be true, it could be a huge step for neurological healthcare.
Once they get the cost down, that is. According to the Tech Review, this study was one of the most costly tests ever performed with embryonic stem-cell technology.
A biotech company says it put dopamine-making cells into people's brains [Antonio Regaldo / MIT Technology Review]