Several recent press releases from the National Institutes of Health have focused on new findings from scientists at Yale who have demonstrated that when endometrial stem cells were injected into the brains of mice with a laboratory-induced form of Parkinson’s disease, they appeared to take over the functioning of brain cells destroyed by the disease. The stem cells were obtained from endometrial tissue from nine women who did not have Parkinson’s. In the laboratory, the researchers verified that the unspecialized endometrial stem cells could be transformed into dopamine-producing nerve cells like those found in the brain. When these cells were injected into the brains of Parkinson’s mice the cells migrated to the site of the damage and developed into dopamine-producing cells.
This finding raises the possibility that women with Parkinson’s disease could serve as their own stem cell donors. Similarly, because endometrial stem cells are readily available and easy to collect, banks of endometrial stem cells could be stored for men and women.
Parkinson’s disease results from a loss of brain cells that produce the chemical messenger dopamine, which aids in the transmission of brain signals that coordinate movement. Endometrial cells are found in the lining of the uterus and the range of possibilities for using these cells is very exciting.
The findings appear online in the Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine.
The study’s authors were Erin F. Wolff, Xiao-Bing Gao, Katherine V. Yao, Zane B. Andrews, Hongling Du, John D. Elsworth and Hugh S. Taylor, all of Yale University School of Medicine.