A research involving stem cells to find early markers of Parkinson’s disease is being developed at the Center for Research and Assistance in Technology and Design of the State of Jalisco (CIATEJ, for its acronym in Spanish). Emmanuel Nestor Martinez Diaz, researcher at the CIATEJ, explains that they seek to induce adult cells into stem cells and then reprogram them, to obtain new drugs and biomarkers for early detection of the disease.
Martinez Diaz said that Parkinson’s disease was underdiagnosed years ago, but now it is in vogue along with other neurodegenerative diseases and mental illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease. This is caused by an increase in human longevity, he said, coupled with other factors such as sedentary lifestyle, eating habits and other environmental stimuli.
“Now we know that if you live by 110 or 120 years, you will develop Parkinson’s disease, caused simply by your neurons’ metabolism and activity,” said the researcher.
“We used to believe that people who consume well water and eat what they planted were healthier. Now what happens is that all these waters are contaminated with pesticides,” he said referring to a study that showed that rural residents who drink water from private wells are much more likely to have Parkinson’s disease, due to pesticides.
Diaz Martinez explained that finding early markers of Parkinson’s disease could help to take preventive actions to stop or at least mitigate the disease.
“95 percent of Parkinson’s cases are sporadic, the remaining is inherited; and if you have bad habits and are exposed to pesticides and chemicals, your dopamine neurons are susceptible. It is not a rule that you will have it, but it is more likely,” he said.
The specialist explained that the process followed in their research involves generate pluripotent stem cells from adult skin cells of a healthy person, and then reprogram and differentiate them into dopaminergic neurons.
Stem cells cannot be taken from the Parkinson’s patient, since it was observed that when they are differentiated into neurons, they show abnormalities, he added.
“If we found are markers in the process of differentiating skin cells into neurons, we could identify some molecules that can detect which ones are going to degenerate. And another point, we can develop drugs to try to stop this degeneration. All this in vitro“, Diaz Martinez said.
He mentioned that one of the characteristics of neurodegenerative problems is that neurons lose connections and die. Therefore, a person who starts with Parkinson’s disease will also develop dementia, due to the death of brain sections.