Parkinson's disease (PD) is the second most common progressive neurodegenerative disease, affecting 1-2% of people over 65. The classic motor symptoms of PD result from selective degeneration of dopaminergic neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta (SNpc), resulting in a loss of their long axonal projections to the striatum. Current treatment strategies such as dopamine replacement and deep brain stimulation (DBS) can only minimize the symptoms of nigrostriatal degeneration, not directly replace the lost pathway. Regenerative medicine-based solutions are being aggressively pursued with the goal of restoring dopamine levels in the striatum, with several emerging techniques attempting to reconstruct the entire nigrostriatal pathway-a key goal to recreate feedback pathways to ensure proper dopamine regulation. Although many pharmacological, genetic, and optogenetic treatments are being developed, this article focuses on the evolution of transplant therapies for the treatment of PD, including fetal grafts, cell-based implants, and more recent tissue-engineered constructs. Attention is given to cell/tissue sources, efficacy to date, and future challenges that must be overcome to enable robust translation into clinical use. Emerging regenerative medicine therapies are being developed using neurons derived from autologous stem cells, enabling the construction of patient-specific constructs tailored to their particular extent of degeneration. In the upcoming era of restorative neurosurgery, such constructs may directly replace SNpc neurons, restore axon-based dopaminergic inputs to the striatum, and ameliorate motor deficits. These solutions may provide a transformative and scalable solution to permanently replace lost neuroanatomy and improve the lives of millions of people afflicted by PD.
Harris, James P; Burrell, Justin C; Struzyna, Laura A; Chen, H Isaac; Serruya, Mijail D; Wolf, John A; Duda, John E; and Cullen, D Kacy, "Emerging regenerative medicine and tissue engineering strategies for Parkinson's disease." (2020). Department of Neurology Faculty Papers. Paper 212.
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