Groundbreaking research at U of S to use stem cells for brain repair

SASKATOON – It could help thousands if not millions with Parkinson’s disease. On Monday, the University of Saskatchewan (U of S) formalized an agreement with colleagues at a Harvard-affiliated Boston research centre marking the beginning of a new chapter for brain repair and the cutting-edge stem cell research behind it.

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“Two fantastic teams and two fantastic universities, work better than one,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, professor of neurology and neuroscience at Harvard.

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Teaming up with Dr. Ivar Mendez, the lead for the Saskatchewan Brain Repair Program at the U of S, the two are committed to science and more importantly patients.  The alliance plans to influence the future of brain repair through research specifically to improve the lives of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s a unique system, it’s a restorative system, it will actually repair the brain,” remarked Isacson.

Using one of a kind instrumentation, the collaboration’s focus will be on stem-cell based therapy that when implanted in the brain helps to reconstruct its circuitry.

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“It’s kind’ve a one shot deal once we have the transplant implanted in the right place, the cells will do the rest of the work and actually reconnect with the rest of the cells of the brain and improve function,” said Mendez.

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Watch below: Cutting-edge research at the University of Saskatchewan may eventually help improve the lives of those suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Dr. Ivan Mendez discusses the research project in this interview with Lisa Dutton. 

Clinical trials are expected to start within the next two to three years and will involve roughly 20 patients.  The hospital site of choice will be Royal University Hospital where Mendez will perform the surgeries using stem-cells from the patients themselves.

“We are using the skin cells or blood cells from the patients or person actually to generate their own cells, the advantage of course is when you transplant the cells you don’t need immune suppression.”

According to Isacson, the procedure will not be a cure-all for the disease but patients should see improved function.

“The rate of Parkinson’s disease in the population is huge, there’s millions of patients that have Parkinson’s disease in the country and in Saskatchewan the rate is even higher I would say tens of thousands of patients,” added Mendez.

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If successful, the two leads say this ground breaking research could improve the lives of others suffering from a range of degenerative diseases, stroke and traumatic brain injuries.

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