Summit at Lake Como with 100 European stem cell experts.
At the summit, 16 research teams part of the Neurostemcell consortium that have been working for months on finding treatments for Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease met. The network, coordinated by Elena Cattaneo, Director of Unistem, the interdepartmental stem cell research centre of the University of Milan, met on April 1 in Bellagio, on the shores of Lake Como for their first annual meeting.
“The meeting is an opportunity to discuss the results obtained until now and to refine our methods,” explained Cattaneo, who pointed out the objective of the project, which is financed by the EU with 12 million euros: “Compares all stem cells and evaluates them as a potential tool for treatments for Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases.” The researchers, from various European laboratories, continued the specialist, “must work to institute stem cells to develop into neurons that die in individuals with Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. The strategy is to take immature stem cells and to push them in a specific direction, rebuilding the codes, or transcription factors of genes and proteins in the laboratory.
The stock of stem cells that we have available today is ample, observed Cattaneo. There are reprogrammed pluripotent stem cells (Ips), adult stem cells, and embryonic stem cells “which particularly fascinate me”. In Cattaneo’s view, for the two neurodegenerative diseases that are the focus of the project, “embryonic stem cells have a strong ability to produce neurons. We are not talking about treatment. These cells are exceptional because they mainly have the ability to receive messages that you send them. With adult stem cells, it does not exactly work in the same way, it seems that they do not have the same abilities to be manipulated.” Embryonic stem cells, concluded a smiling Cattaneo, “are wide awake. It is more satisfying working with them”.