Parkinson’s Disease Research

Stem cells have amazing promise for making replacement tissues and organs. However, while that application might be some years in the future, stem cells have already proved to be a welcome breakthrough for neurodegenerative disease research. This is particularly true for a specific type of stem cells called induced pluripotent stem cells or iPSCs that were discovered by Gladstone investigator Shinya Yamanaka.


Parkinsons disease IPSCs

Studies of human diseases in animals have always had limitations. Now Dr. Gaia Skibinski is using cutting-edge technology to create custom-made, entirely human neurons that manifest many of the characteristics of Parkinson’s disease. These single-cell PD models help her and her team to gain insights into the disease and to continue their search for possible new treatments for this devastating disease.

Having grown up in a coastal town, the smell of the ocean evokes strong memories. Images of days in the sun, sounds of the crashing waves, the feeling of sand between my toes, the taste of salt water, and the joy of a relaxing afternoon replay in my mind’s eye like a faded home movie of experiences long since passed. The power of memory allows us to create and access a mental representation of the world, or to be swept up in the emotions of previous events. What is this ability to store and access information?

The human nervous system is incredibly complex. With careful experimental design, we generate simpler models of the brain in the laboratory. Models come in many forms, including using cancer cell lines, primary cells (taken directly from an animal and grown in a dish), and whole animal models.  Every model has its strengths and weaknesses, but so far, no model has produced effective drug treatments for most neurodegenerative diseases. Because of this, we have turned to an emerging and exciting new model system that uses human stem cells.

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