High hopes have been pinned on the prospects of using stem cells to eventually be able to replace diseased or dead cells with new, healthy ones. In order to do this, the stem cells must be programmed to form cells with the exact speciality needed for the treatment of patients.

Parkinson's Disease is caused by the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in a certain part of the brain. By studying the embryonic development of the central nervous system, research groups led by Johan Ericson and Thomas Perlmann at Karolinska Institutet have been able to show that two genes, Lmx1a and Msx1, play a critical part in the formation of cerebral dopamine cells.

They also demonstrate how these findings can be used to control the formation of dopamine-producing cells from stem cells in a highly effective manner. This represents an important step in the development of a stem-cell based treatment for Parkinson's Disease.

Identification of intrinsic determinants of midbrain dopamine neurons
Andersson E, Marklund U, Deng Q, Friling S, Alekseenko Z, Robert B, Perlmann T, Ericson J.
Cell 27 January 2006

Press Officer Katarina Sternudd
Karolinska Institutet
info.ki.se/ki Sweden