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The CIMA of the University of Navarra and a firm from New York form an alliance against Parkinson's Disease

The agreement with BrainStorm involves the use of adult stem cells. If the initial results are positive, the project will begin trials

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FOTO: Manuel Castells
06/09/06 13:45 Mª Pilar Huarte

The CIMA of the University of Navarra has just signed an agreement with BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, a New York-based company which is a leader in adult stem cell research. The objective of this collaboration is the development of effective therapies for the treatment of Parkinson's disease. The principal characteristic of this disease is the loss of dopamine-producing neurons. If the tests in animal models offer satisfactory results, the clinical trials (in patients) may be in Pamplona in 2007.

Two experts will work as directors of the project: Dr. José Obeso, a researcher at the CIMA and a specialist at the University Hospital, who has more than 20 years of experience in this area; and Dr. Eldad Melamed, head of Neurology at the Rabin Medical Center of the University of Tel Aviv (Israel).

70.000 with Parkinson's in Spain

According to BrainStorm Cell Therapeutics, there are more than 4 million persons in the Western world who are suffering from Parkinson's. In Spain, there are at least 70,000. While the initial project will focus on Parkinson's disease, the project promoters believe that, if it is successful, the therapeutic technique should be able to be applied to other disorders, such as Huntington's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and even cerebral infarction (ictus).

The currently-available technology permits the conversion of adult bone marrow stem cells into glial cells able to produce neurotrophic factors (regenerative substances) and neurons able to produce dopamine (lacking in patients with Parkinson's disease). It is important to remember that all of the stages of this research will require several years, even in the best of cases.

There are both scientific and ethical motives for choosing adult stem cells. As is known, as opposed to embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells have demonstrated therapeutic effectiveness, do not produce tumors, and can be obtained without destroying embryos.

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