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Carlsbad's ISCO, Duke U. Join for Parkinson's Trial

Biotech: Stem cells can be used to create new neurons to help restore movement.

Original Article By Bradley J. Fikes • U-T Sept. 8, 2013

International Stem Cell Corp. has teamed up with North Carolina’s prestigious Duke University to test a stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease.

It aims to replace certain brain cells destroyed by Parkinson’s, a neurodegenerative disease characterized by progressive loss of movement. These cells produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter enabling movement. No one knows why the cells are destroyed, and there is no cure.

The Carlsbad-based biotech says it can turn stem cells into new dopamine-making neurons, which doctors can transplant into the brain, restoring normal movement. Its therapy has already been successfully tested in a small trial in rats and African green monkeys.

The company could apply to begin a human trial by the middle of next year, if all goes well, Dr. Simon Craw, executive vice president of business development, said Friday.

Patients might get relief for 10 to 15 years, said Mark Stacy, a Duke University neurologist and Parkinson’s disease researcher who heads its clinical trial division. More animal tests will be performed before a human trial is conducted, he said.