Brain-damaged rats with Parkinson's who once wandered in uncontrollable circles were successfully treated with stem cells from ethical sources. The researchers started with adult skin cells from mice and reprogrammed them back to an embryonic-like state. These cells, known as induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), are like a "blank slate" which can be coaxed into becoming any cell in the body. In this case, the cells were coaxed to become neural cells and then transplanted into the rat's brain tissue. Within 8 weeks, the cells were generating dopamine, resulting in eight of the nine rats showing marked improvement.
"These cells are more readily available and much less controversial than embryonic stem cells. But they seem to have identical potential," said Rudolf Jaenisch, from the Whitehead Institute who oversaw the work. His lab has already used this reprogramming technique successfully to treat sickle cell anemia in rodents.
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