New OHSU center aims to speed cures for Parkinson’s …

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OHSU's Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov will lead the hospital's new Center for Embryonic Stem Cell and Gene Therapy.

Oregon Health & Science University has launched a new Center for Embryonic Cell and Gene Therapy.

Led by renowned researcher Dr. Shoukhrat Mitalipov, a senior scientist at OHSU's Oregon National Primate Research Center, the center could help accelerate cures and treatments for Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and other conditions caused by diseased or injured cells.

"Our continuing work and discoveries can be revolutionary in how we cure and treat many diseases and injuries," said Mitalipov in a statement. "This new center will allow us to put together a comprehensive program where we can share our expertise, answer new questions and train the scientists needed to move this important work forward."

Mitalipov and his team have succeeded in preventing transmission of genetic defects in mitochondrial DNA in the cells of monkeys, in 2009, and in human cells in 2012. Thousands of babies are born every year in the U.S. with mutated mitochondrial DNA, which can cause brain damage, muscle weakness, cardiac disease and damage to other organs. Most children with mitochondrial disease don't live past their teenage years.

Mitalipov just returned from a two-day Food and Drug Administration hearing in Maryland that reviewed his gene therapy research for consideration of human clinical trials.

Mitalipov and his team are also global leaders in embryonic stem cell research. Last year, the journal Cell published a Mitalipov paper that detailed how his team had reprogrammed human skin cells to become embryonic stem cells capable of transforming into any cell type in the body.

Stem cell therapies may eventually allow damaged cells to be replaced and could be key contributors to treating Parkinson's disease, cardiac disease and spinal cord injuries, among other conditions. Mitalipov's procedure is among a very few alternatives to the controversial use of stem cells derived from fertilized human embryos. His lab is the only one in the world currently capable of producing these embryonic human stem cells.

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