Cells donated by Google co-founder Sergey Brin’s mother are helping the search for a cure of Parkinson’s disease.
According to San Jose Mercury News, a Silicon Valley daily, there have been no witnesses to the death of brain cells in people with Parkinson’s disease. But Stanford University scientists say they have re-enacted the death process in a petri dish by growing neurons from the donated skin cells of Parkinson’s patient Genia Brin and watching them sicken and perish.
The feat, documented in this month’s issue of the journal Cell by Stanford’s Renee Reijo Pera, could make 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.
There are no cures for the degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, for two reasons: Only humans get the disease, so lab animals aren’t good models for testing. And it is impossible to extract cells from deep inside the brains of patients.
In some, the disease progresses slowly, as in Brin’s case, but in others, quality of life can deteriorate dramatically.
“I’m impressed, almost proud,” said Brin, 62, who donated a dime-sized sample of skin cells, excised from her upper arm. “It is a bad disease and its biological basis is little understood. Research has been pretty slow.”