Using Macaques to treat Parkinson’s Disease

I consider Pakinson’s a very devastating neurodegenerative disease because the affected individuals are fully aware of their degeneration. Unlike Alzheimer’s, where individuals become jaded as the disease progresses, individuals with Parkinson’s are very conscious of what’s happening or actually what’s not functioning correctly — and they can’t do a thing about it!

So some new findings from a biomedical/neurological experiment has just come out where the authors implanted dopamine generators (dopaminergics) into brain cells of macaques. They noted these new generators improved the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Here is a summary of the methods and findings,

“the research was extended to a greater number of non- human primates and for a longer period of time. The procedure involved implanting cell fragments extracted from the carotid body in the striate area of the brain. The carotid body is a small structure located at the bifurcation of the carotid artery, at the level of the neck. Its function is to control the rhythm of respiration and the cardiac frequency through releasing dopamine in situations of low oxygen level in the blood. After the implantation of the cellular aggregates of the carotid body into the striate area of the brain, the improvement in movement in monkeys with Parkinson’s and which had received transplants was demonstrated to last for at least a year.

The research team concluded that the mechanism by which the implants in the striate area of the brain of dopamine-generating cells manage to ameliorate Parkinson’s appears to be related to the capacity of these cells to release substances (trophic factors) that induce an increase of the dopaminergic cells (that usually exist in the normal brain but in lower quantities). Amongst these trophic factors is the GNDF (Glial Cell-derived Neurotrophic Factor).

Cells extracted from the carotid body have been used as a source for dopaminergic cells in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease in animal experiments and in humans. The advantage of this cell type with respect to others is the possibility of carrying out autoimplants, thus avoiding tissue rejection or immunosupressor treatment.”

Personally, I consider this an ethical use of primates in research. Firstly, the cause is noble in my opinion. Parkinson’s is a horrible disease, and in this situation, work done on a primate model has shown us a possible way to treat the disease by inserting doapamine generators. While, I think it will be a while until we actually do that in humans, this research has allowed a possible treatment to be investigated.

If you wanna read the entire publication, here is the a link to the paper, “Modification of the number and phenotype of striatal dopaminergic cells by carotid body graft.”

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