PIG cells will be transplanted into the brains of New Zealanders with Parkinson’s disease as part of an experimental treatment of the neurological disorder.
Kiwi scientists will undertake the clinical trial after Living Cell Technologies, which has its research and development based in this country, got the go-ahead to test the treatment in humans next year.
Government approval was given this week for the trial.
“Receiving regulatory approval to conduct clinical trials is a critical step in developing a treatment for this debilitating condition,” said the company’s chief executive Andrea Grant said in a statement.
She says pre-clinical trials suggest the treatment, known as NTCELL, can protect brain tissue which would otherwise die, potentially delaying or preventing the effects of Parkinson’s.
Only those who have been diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease for at least four years will be part of the study, which will last for up to 60 weeks.
The trial will involve patients getting either the pig cells or the current gold standard of treatment – deep brain stimulation.
The leader of Auckland District Health Board’s movement disorder clinic, Barry Snow, will oversee the trial.
“This represents an exciting new potential option for patients,” Dr Snow said.
Pre-clinical studies had shown improvement in movement and neurological defects and a rise in dopamine-producing neurons within two weeks of treatment.
Parkinson’s is caused by reduced levels of dopamine in the brain leading to shaking, difficulty with walking, movement and co-ordination.