From the Zeng Lab
The Zeng lab is making great progress on developing a stem cell-derived treatment for Parkinson’s disease for testing in humans. Scientists in the lab have successfully generated neural stem cells (NCS) from human embryonic stem cells and human induced pluripotent stem cells (these are stem cells that have been reprogrammed from adult cells). Researchers have subsequently coaxed those NCS to become the type of neurons that produce dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter produced in the mid-brain, which facilitates many critical functions, including motor skills. Patients with Parkinson’s lack sufficient dopamine regulation. The cells generated in the Zeng lab may not only provide a potential unlimited source for cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease, but also offer an unprecedented opportunity to develop screening models for assessing small molecule drugs and to clarify the mechanisms of disease.
It’s one thing to grow neurons in a petri dish. The Zeng lab has developed a robust, scalable protocol that allows for the efficient production of the type and quantity of dopamine-producing neurons needed for clinical trials. That process has been transferred to partners at the City of Hope in Southern California. Scientists have successfully banked cells at several stages of dopaminergic differentiation. Dr. Xianmin Zeng is currently in discussions with the NIH (National Institutes of Health) Center for Regenerative Medicine and the NIH Clinic Center on using the cells for a Phase I clinical trial.
In addition the Zeng lab is using their protocol to develop a model that can be used to screen compounds that could have neurotoxic and/or neuroprotective effects. Dr. Zeng is collaborating with the NIH in a project that would involve the use of a large compound library in the screening efforts. Scientists in the Zeng lab have also established a new process for generating human induced pluripotent stem cells. Dr. Zeng recently signed a collaborative agreement with the New York Stem Cell Foundation to generate 30 stem cell lines from Parkinson’s patients.