Local Stem Cell Program to Launch Groundbreaking Clinical Trial on Parkinson's Patients

With a new $2.3 million grant, a stem cell program to aid Parkinson’s disease patients that’s being researched at Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla is one step closer to FDA approval.

The program, called Summit Stem Cell, launched three years ago. The team plans to start its clinical trial in 2018, depending on the level of funding needed for the work.

How it works: researchers take a skin sample from a patient, and, using DNA, create millions of stem cells.

And while performing surgery, those cells are injected into the brain to create dopamine neurons, which are destroyed by Parkinson’s disease.

The process has worked in numerous tests with animals, though it’s never been tested on humans.

But those working on the project are confident.

“We’re going to give these people back the neuron that is going to respond to their level of activity,” said Sherrie Gould, a Scripps Clinic nurse practitioner who has worked on the project from the beginning.

One of the patients taking part in the clinical trial, Cassandra Peters, said the program could be her saving grace.

“This project – this blessed, amazing project – is my reason for being,” she said. “It would mean that I could have my life back, that I could have my body back, that I could look in the mirror and actually recognize the person and begin to reclaim some of the things this disease has stolen.”

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