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World first trial could transform the treatment of Parkinson’s disease

  • Stem cells were injected into the patient’s brainin the five hour operation
  • A Victorian man, 64, was the first patient to undergo the procedure
  • The delicate operation performed at Royal Melbourne Hospital
  • Around 10 million people worldwide have the debilitating disease

A world first stem cell trial could revolutionise the treatment of Parkinson’s disease, for which there is currently no cure.

A 64-year old Victorian man was the first patient to receive the neural stem cells in a delicate operation performed at Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Neurologist Andrew Evans and neurosurgeon Girish Nair practised weeks beforehand on a 3D model of the patient’s brain, planning a way to enter the brain for the five hour operation.

‘The first patient’s operation was a success, however we won’t know for 12 months the effects of the stem cell implants and if we are on the verge of a new treatment for Parkinsons,’ Dr Evans said.

It’s estimated around 10 million people around the world suffer from Parkinson’s disease, including 80,000 Australians.

The debilitating condition destroys a person’s ability to control their body movements, leaving them with tremors, rigid muscles and slow movement.

According to Parkinson’s Australia, symptoms of Parkinson’s disease relates to a lack of a brain chemical called dopamine.

‘The first phase is critical for us to understand the right amount of neural stem cells required to be injected into the brain,’ Dr Evans said.

‘The three different doses range from 30,000,000 to 70,000,000 neural cells and of those, only a very small percentage will become dopamine.

‘Dopamine is a hormone that transmits information between brain cells and is one of the most critical transmitters in the brain that is lost with Parkinson’s disease.’

Mr Girish Nair said accuracy was key when injecting the stem cells into the brain.

‘The stem cells entered the brain through two 1.5cm holes in the skull and we targeted 14 sites on the brain and each injection had to be spaced four minutes apart,’ Mr Nair said.

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