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Columbia University Research on Embryonic Stem Cells Discovers Important Clue to Parkinson's

While many members of the Parkinsonís community have focused on stem cell use in therapeutics, a research team at the Columbia University has used embryonic stem cells for the first time to make an important scientific discovery about Parkinsonís disease. Using embryonic stem cells from mice, the researchers uncovered how a gene known to be involved in Parkinson's disease leads to the death of neurons.

In the study, the study's senior author, Asa Abeliovich, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and pathology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and colleagues coaxed mouse embryonic stem cells into dopamine neurons, the type of neurons that die in Parkinson's. They then used the stem cell-derived neurons to reveal how mutations in the DJ-1 gene cause a rare inherited form of the disease. The result is exciting, the researchers say, because it clearly shows how oxidative stress plays a key part in killing neurons. This idea has been hypothesized before, but the new research shows how the process happens inside the cell.

"Our research opens up the idea of using human embryonic stem cells for research, which would give us a unique opportunity to work with human neurons," Dr. Abeliovich adds. "But it's difficult now with the current regulations restricting federally funded research to only a few cell lines."

The research will appear in the November issue of PLoS Biology, available online at on Oct. 5.

PDF is a supporter of embryonic stem-cell research, and has joined with several other organizations in New York to form a coalition called New Yorkers for the Advancement of Medical Research (NYAMR). NYAMRís mission is to achieve positive legislation regarding stem-cell research in New York State. For more information visit

Source Date: Oct 07 2004
Source Publication: Columbia University