Parkinson's breakthrough: Lab-grown mini-brains mimic disease in new hope of finding cure

Professor Ng Huck Hui, Senior Group Leader at GIS, A*STAR, and senior co-author of the study, said: “Recreating models of Parkinson’s disease in animal models is hard as these do not show the progressive and selective loss of neurons that produce the neurotransmitter dopamine, a major feature of Parkinson’s disease.

“Another limitation is that experimental mouse models of Parkinson’s disease do not develop characteristic clumps of proteins called Lewy bodies, which are often seen in the brain cells of people with Parkinson’s disease and a type of progressive dementia known as Lewy body dementia.”

To tackle these limitations, the team was able to grow pea-sized brains by coaxing human stem cells to develop into the bundles of neurons and other cells found in the brain.

They manipulated the DNA of the starting stem cells to match genetic risk factors found in people who suffer from Parkinson’s and were able to grow organoids with neurons that showed both Lewy bodies and the progressive loss of dopamine-producing neurons.

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