Until now, there have been no witnesses to the death of brain cells in people with Parkinson’s disease.
And like any murder mystery, this has slowed the search for the killer.
In a big break in the case, Stanford University scientists say they have re-enacted this tragedy in a petri dish — growing the young neurons from the donated skin cells of Parkinson’s patient Genia Brin, the mother of Google co-founder Sergey Brin — and then watching them sicken and perish.
This feat, co-authored in this month’s issue of the journal Cell by Stanford’s Renee Reijo Pera, could accelerate the search for a cure of the crippling disorder. The research makes it possible, for the first time in medical history, to study the diseased cells and test compounds that might slow or even prevent their development.
“For the first time ever, we have them in a dish where we can study them directly. We can see exactly why they’re dying, and test drugs in them,” said Dr. William Langston of the Sunnyvale-based Parkinson’s Institute, who contributed to the effort.