Parkinson’s disease is characterised by the loss of a certain kind of brain cell. These brain cells make dopamine. This neurotransmitter [a chemical released by brain cells to send signals around the central nervous system] plays an important role in the control of voluntary movement and behavioral processes like addiction. Brain cells that produce this messenger are known as dopamine neurons. Pictured is one grown from mouse embryonic stem cells in the lab. A developmental gene that helps the neurons mature is here tagged with green fluorescent protein and an enzyme required to make dopamine is stained blue. Making neurons from stem cells allows scientists to study their function in detail. Regenerative medicine for Parkinson’s will require a thorough understanding of how to make healthy replacement cells.
Written by Daniel Cossins
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