Researchers at the Australian National University (ANU), in collaboration with the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health, have developed a new type of hydrogel that could radically transform the way we treat Parkinson’s disease. The gel also offers hope for patients who have suffered from other neurological conditions, such as stroke.
The new material is made from natural amino acids – the building blocks of protein – and acts as a gateway to facilitate the safe transfer of stem cells to the brain and restore damaged tissue by releasing a growth-enabling protein called GDNF.
+ Are you ready to live 1000 years?
By placing stem cells in a gel, they are exposed to less stress when injected into the brain and are more smoothly and successfully integrated.
“When we shake or apply energy to the hydrogel, the substance turns into a liquid that allows us to inject it into the brain through a very small capillary using a needle,” said Professor David Nisbet of the ANU School of Medical Research.
Professor Clare Parish, head of the Florey Institute’s Stem Cell and Neural Development Laboratory, said: “Through the use of the hydrogel technique, we have demonstrated greater survival of grafted dopamine neurons and restored movement in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. ”
Although dopamine-related medications are a readily used treatment for people living with Parkinson’s disease, many have undesirable side effects that are exacerbated over time.
“Stem cell transplantation delivered in this hydrogel, on the other hand, avoids many of these side effects and may provide a unique intervention that can sustain dopamine levels for decades to come,” said Professor Parish.
Professor Nisbet said the hydrogel has the potential to also treat patients who have had a stroke and could even be used to treat damaged knees or shoulders after successful animal testing.
“When we introduced the gel technology with stem cells, we saw a big improvement in the coordinated movement of the animals’ paws and the overall recovery of motor function,” he said.
Hydrogel technology is cost-effective and easy to manufacture on a large scale, and it is hoped that the treatment will soon be available in hospitals, but it must first undergo clinical trials.
“We must do our due diligence and ensure that we check all the right boxes for safety, efficacy and regulatory approval before we can bring this technology to the clinic, but we hope it will be available for use in the not-too-distant future, “Professor Parish said.
+ Learn about the effectiveness of each vaccine against Covid-19