A pioneering Parkinson’s research project using a ‘Benjamin Button’ reverse ageing technique to produce stem cells has begun in Wales.
The three-year study at Cardiff University, led by winner of the prestigious Future Leader Fellowship Dr Dayne Beccano-Kelly, is being funded through a substantial £324,695 grant from Parkinson’s UK.
Researchers believe it has the potential to improve our understanding of the condition, which could lead to more effective treatments.
To conduct the research, a team of top scientists are turning skin cells that have been donated by people who have the condition back into stem cells by using a combination of ‘reprogramming factors’.
Stem cells have the potential to become almost any other cell in the body, making them a useful tool to study conditions such as Parkinson’s, as they can make studying the brain more accessible.
This way of producing stem cells has been likened to something out of the 2008 fantasy romantic drama film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’, in which Brad Pitt plays a character who ages in reverse.
“The communication between cells and how the cells get rid of old proteins within the cells are both things that are known to be affected in Parkinson’s. But we don’t know how they interact with one another,” said Dr Beccano-Kelly, pictured above.
“We think that those two functions actually directly relate to one another so we’ll be looking at that using some really cool wonderful techniques that will allow us to see if there is a direct link between those two things.
“The aim of this three-year funded programme is to understand the mechanism by which those two things are linked and how they're going wrong in Parkinson’s, which will give us targets for treatments.
“I’m optimistic that a cure for Parkinson’s will be found eventually. I think that the work that we’re doing brings us ever closer to understanding the different aspects of the condition.”