Stem cells can be used to heal the damage in the brain caused by Parkinson’s disease, according to scientists in Sweden.
They said their study on rats heralded a ‘huge breakthrough’ towards developing effective treatments.
There is no cure for the disease, but medication and brain stimulation can alleviate symptoms.
Parkinson’s UK said there were many questions still to be answered before human trials could proceed.
Scientists have found stem cells can heal the damage to the brain caused by Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers said their study on rats using stem cells heralded a ‘huge breakthrough’ towards developing effective treatments for the condition
The disease is caused by the loss of nerve cells in the brain that produce the chemical dopamine, which helps to control mood and movement.
Comedian Billy Connolly revealed last year he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
The Scottish actor, 71, was diagnosed by a doctor in a hotel lobby, who spotted that his gait suggested he was showing early signs of the illness.
In the new study, to simulate Parkinson’s, Lund University researchers killed dopamine-producing neurons on one side of the rats’ brains.
They then converted human embryonic stem cells into neurons that produced dopamine.
These were injected into the rats’ brains, and the researchers found evidence that the damage was reversed.
There have been no human clinical trials of stem-cell-derived neurons, but the researchers said they could be ready for testing by 2017.
Malin Parmar, associate professor of developmental and regenerative neurobiology, said: ‘It’s a huge breakthrough in the field [and] a stepping stone towards clinical trials.’