Collagen implant could help brain repair Parkinson’s disease

23 Nov 2017

Image: sfam_photo/Shutterstock

A team from NUI Galway has made a substantial breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease using a new collagen brain matrix.

Parkinson’s disease is a condition that primarily affects a person’s ability to control movement, impacting millions of people across the globe.

The symptoms of the condition are caused by the degeneration and death of brain cells that regulate movement, but treatment options that repair these cells have been severely limited because of the poor survival of the implanted cells.

But now, a paper published to the journal Scientific Reports by a team of researchers from NUI Galway has revealed a breakthrough in regenerative medicine that could help overcome this difficulty.

The team’s research showed that the survival of transplanted cells in a patient is dramatically improved if they are implanted within a supportive matrix made from the natural material, collagen.

“The collagen provides the cells with a nurturing, supportive environment in the brain and helps them to survive the aversive transplant process,” explained the study’s lead author, Dr Eilís Dowd.

Part of wider research effort

The team’s findings are to be presented at an upcoming conference on transplantation and restoration, having recently been outlined at the International Neural Transplantation and Repair (INTR) conference in Australia.

Other Irish institutions are working towards treatments for Parkinson’s disease, such as Prof Madeleine Lowery of University College Dublin, who spoke with earlier this year.

Her work focuses on the Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) treatment method that surgically implants an electrode into the brain to deliver electrical pulses to cells and motor neurons that control muscles to stop tremors.

However, one of the aims of her research is to come up with a ‘smarter’ DBS system that can figure out the optimal settings for the individual by picking up signals from the muscles and adjusting accordingly.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic