Parkinson’s: Treating with Stem Cells


HOUSTON, Tx. (Ivanhoe Newswire)— More than ten million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s and 60,000 are in the U.S. It’s a chronic, progressive disease that is classified as neuro-degenerative, which means it changes and continues to get worse over time. But a new therapy, currently in trials, is proving to be a game-changer. Treating Parkinson’s

For Marie Bott, a few years ago this was impossible.

“It’s nice to know I’m not flaring my arms around,” Marie Bott told Ivanhoe.

Ten years ago, Marie was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and as the disease progressed, she wasn’t able to do the things she loves.

“I totally lost my ability to swim. When I tried to swim, I would just go right to the bottom,” Marie noted.

But then Marie was referred to a trial using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s.

“This kind of treatment approach will actually address maybe halting the progression of the disease, which would be very powerful,” Mya Schiess, MD, director of the Movement Disorder Subspecialty Clinic at UTHealth Neurosciences Neurology, shared.

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In the trial, Parkinson’s patients are injected with a single dose of stem cells with varying concentrations from a healthy adult’s bone marrow. Then they are followed for a year after the infusion. All the patients had improvements in motor function, reduction in inflammatory markers in the blood, and an increased ability to perform daily functions. Marie says the infusion of stem cells also had a surprising side effect.

“My skin became much younger looking, so much so that friends said to me had I changed my beauty regimen because I didn’t appear to be so wrinkled,” Marie exclaimed.

But she mostly credits the treatment for allowing her to continue her daily activities, like making breakfast and walking her dog.

Marie proclaimed, “It just makes for a happier, more productive life, if you can do the things you like to do.”

Good news for Marie, since this story aired Marie has been able to get back to swimming. Dr. Schiess says the phase one trial is the first of its kind done in the United States with FDA approval. A phase two trial is already in the works and started recruiting back in March. Dr. Schiess says that patients from the first trial, like Marie, are not able to participate in this trial.

Contributors to this news report include: Jenna Ehrlich, Producer; Milvionne Chery, Producer; Bruce Maniscalco, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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REPORT:       MB #4961

BACKGROUND: Parkinson’s disease happens when brain cells that make dopamine, a chemical that coordinates movement, stop working or die. It is also referred to as a movement disorder because it affects the way patients walk, causes balance issues, tremors, slowness, and stiffness. Parkinson’s is a lifelong, progressive disease, which cause the symptoms to increase over time. Parkinson’s is unique to each person, meaning that no experience with the disease is one in the same. Progression of the disease varies and neither the patient nor doctor can predict which symptoms the patient will have, the severity of the symptoms or how quickly they will progress. Parkinson’s affects nearly one million people in the U.S. and more than six million people across the globe.


DIAGNOSING: The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. The symptoms include tremors, mainly at rest, limb rigidity, as well as gait and balance problems. Parkinson’s alone is not fatal but problems occurring because of the diagnosis can be serious. Patients can live with Parkinson’s and should work with their doctor in finding therapies that manage their symptoms. Taking dopamine medication can also help with the diagnosis since the brain makes less dopamine than the average person. Patients experience the symptoms of Parkinson’s after the disease has already done a significant amount of damage to the dopamine cells. Non-motor symptoms have also been found with Parkinson’s; they involve apathy, depression, constipation, sleep behavior disorders, loss of sense of smell and cognitive impairment.


NEW TECHNOLOGY: While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, some advancements have been made to lesson the impact of the disease on the patient. Telemedicine can offer the patients some relief as traveling to a doctor’s office and planning visits can be difficult for the patient due to their physical ailments. Sensor modalities that can be practiced from a virtual-home session are also helpful to the patient. Applications, or apps, have been developed to address patients’ specific needs. They record and track the data gathered by the sensors already built into phones. Apps like memory games, finger tapping, speaking, and walking are all helpful when virtually communicating with the patient.





If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at

Doctor Q and A

Read the entire Doctor Q&A for Mya Schiess, MD, director of the Movement Disorder Subspecialty Clinic

Read the entire Q&A