Parkinson's Disease Research
Scientists are also investigating the role of mitochondria in Parkinson's disease. Mitochondria are structures in the cells that provide energy for cellular activity. MPTP (a potent neurotoxin named 1-Methyl-4-phenyl-1,2,3,6-tetrahydropyridine) has been found to interfere with the function of mitochondria within nerve cells, leading to a Parkinson's-like syndrome. Because of this, some scientists suspect that similar abnormalities in the mitochondria may be involved in Parkinson's disease.
Neural grafting, or transplantation of nerve cells, is an experimental technique proposed for treating Parkinson's disease. Investigators have shown in animal models that implanting fetal brain tissue from the substantia nigra into a parkinsonian brain causes damaged nerve cells to regenerate.
A new and promising approach may be the use of genetically engineered cells (such as modified skin cells that do not come from the nervous system but are grown in tissue culture) that could have the same beneficial effects. Skin cells would be much easier to harvest, and people could serve as their own donors.