brain

New Zealand’s Living Cell Technologies plans to transplant pig cells into the brains of patients with Parkinson’s disease in an early stage clinical trial.

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The company’s NTCELL treatment involves transplanting choroid plexus cells from the Aukland Island pig herd into the human brain.

Once transplanted, it is hoped that the cells will help protect the brain and repair damaged nerve tissue.

Clinician and researcher in Parkinson’s disease Dr Barry Snow will be the principal investigator for the phase 1 clinical trials.

"Parkinson’s is a disorder which clinicians can help manage but can’t reverse, so this represents an exciting new potential option for patients," said Dr Snow.

"It’s also important that these clinical trials are conducted here because public awareness of the disorder is raised when New Zealand patients get involved in this type of research, which in turn helps improve the way the disorder is looked after generally."

LCT is preparing an application to New Zealand’s medicines safety authority, Medsafe, to start Phase 1 clinical trials in Parkinson’s patients.

Pending this authorisation, LCT expects to begin the trials by the end of Q1 2013.

Trial patients will receive either NTCELL treatment or the current gold standard of treatment for their symptoms, deep brain stimulation.

Preclinical trials of the treatment in monkeys showed a greater than 50% improvement in symptoms, according to Living Cell Chief Executive Andrea Grant.

"The results of our preclinical studies suggest that NTCELL can protect brain tissue which would otherwise die, potentially delaying or even preventing the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s," says Dr Grant.

Image: The loss of nerve cells in the brain causes the symptoms of Parkinson’s to appear. Credit: dream designs