While it is estimated that more than 60,000 people in San Diego County are affected by Parkinson’s disease, there are at least 70 residents here in the Fallbrook area who have it. These figures mean a proposed initiative for funding research for regenerative medicine could have a significant impact on many local families.
Back in 2004, Proposition 71 was approved by almost 60% of voters in California. As a result, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine was established and partially funded.
According to CIRM, which has invested $3 billion in stem cell research, it “supports research across all stages of the drug discovery pipeline – from basic science to translational studies to clinical trials – in order to significantly increase the pace of medical discovery, and accelerate the resulting development and delivery of better treatments and cures.”
Among the CIRM funded successes are vision restoration for blind patients, insulin production for diabetic patients and a cure for Bubble Baby Disease. While matching funds have been generated, extending the amount of research that has been done, more money is needed to continue the trials that have begun, especially one that directly affects people with Parkinson’s.
Supporters of the new proposed ballot measure are currently trying to gather the 623,212 voter signatures needed to place it on the November 2020 ballot. If the measure passes, it would dedicate $5.5 billion in funding to continuing the research effort.
More specifically, $1.5 billion of that amount would support research into and the development of treatments for diseases and conditions of the brain and central nervous system, “such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, stroke, dementia, epilepsy, depression, brain cancer, schizophrenia, autism and other conditions of the brain.”
Stem cell research is being done in La Jolla at Summit for Stem Cell and the Scripps Research Institute, both of which are working on developing a cell therapy to replace the specific type of nerve cells that are lost as Parkinson’s disease progresses, dopamine-producing neurons.
As detailed on Summit’s website, scientists have chosen to use skin cells for this project. “Skin cells are abundant and easily accessed. Small biopsies from a group of Parkinson’s patients are undergoing a remarkable journey – the transformation from simple skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells and from there, the iPSCs are reprogrammed to become dopamine-producing neurons. These autologous (patient-specific) new dopamine neurons will be used to reverse the progressive symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.”
Fallbrook resident and leader of the local Parkinson’s Support Group Irene Miller said that a Fallbrook resident is among the nine people who have had their skin cells transformed into stem cells, which are now frozen, waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve the next step in the research trial. The process has been used with animals to show that Parkinson’s disease can be reversed, Miller said.
While dopamine is the food supply the brain needs, the FDA wants to make sure the treatment is safe in the long run before the human side of the trial continues.
Anyone who would like to support the initiative effort, can contact Miller to sign the petition, (619) 517-3210 or NCPSG@gmail.com.