Stem cell transplants to help treat Huntington’s disease

Cardiff University has announced plans to conduct a stem cell transplantation procedure that could benefit people affected by Huntington’s disease in Wales (Cardiff University, 2017).

The Brain Repair and Intracranial Neurotherapeutics (BRAIN) Unit kicked off Huntington’s Disease Awareness Week (May 15th – 21st) by unveiling its intention to perform the first of its pioneering procedures by the end of this year. The aim of the surgery is to use advanced technologies to deliver stem cells into patients who are living with Huntington’s disease, a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system, in the hope of slowing the development of symptoms.

Unlike any other neurodegenerative disorder, Huntington’s disease is caused by a single faulty gene, which is currently incurable and affects everything from a person’s movement to their feelings and thought processes.

Professor of Functional Neurosurgery at the (BRAIN) Unit William Gray was awarded funding from the Life Sciences Bridging Fund to conduct the new procedure, which will assess the effectiveness of a novel delivery system in stem cell transplantation, in three patients with Huntington’s disease by March 2018. The delivery system will be based on the drug delivery technology developed by Renishaw.

William Gray said “The procedure marks a next stage in our battle to combat the debilitating effects of this currently incurable disorder. Whilst the measurability of the surgery’s success may not be clear-cut for more than a year post-transplantation, we are hopeful the procedure could significantly contribute to the long-term development of therapies for thousands of people living with Huntington’s disease.”

Health and Care Research Wales Director, Jon Bisson, said “I am delighted to see BRAIN playing such a vital role in driving novel therapies into clinical practice. The unit is one of many internationally recognised research centres and units in Wales, making a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales.”

Paul Skinner, General Manager of Neurological Products at Renishaw, said “We are pleased that Renishaw’s expertise in engineering is continuing to support pioneering research at the University Hospital of Wales. It is exciting to be part of a collaboration that sees precision engineering and innovative surgical practice working in synergy to improve patient outcomes.”

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