First-in-Canada clinical trial aims to treat advanced Parkinson’s disease

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An exciting new stem cell therapy that could transform the lives of patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease is being trialled in Canada at University Health Network (UHN) in partnership with BlueRock Therapeutics.

In Parkinson’s disease, the gradual breakdown of dopamine-producing cells in the brain leads to abnormal brain activity and impaired movement. BlueRock Therapeutics, a cell engineering company, has developed novel stem cell technology to generate dopamine-producing cells that could replace the cells damaged in patients with Parkinson’s disease and potentially reverse the symptoms of this condition.

“It is incredibly exciting to be a part of delivering this first-of-its-kind authentic cellular medicine to patients in Canada, with the hope of regenerating lost function and possibly improving and reversing Parkinson’s disease,” says Joachim Fruebis, Chief Development Officer of BlueRock Therapeutics.

Conducting a Canadian-first clinical trial at UHN

The phase one clinical trial will investigate whether surgically injecting the novel dopamine-producing cells from BlueRock Therapeutics into the brains of patients with advanced Parkinson’s disease is safe. On January 18, 2022, the first Canadian patient received the surgery at UHN. Dr. Andres Lozano, a senior scientist and neurosurgeon at the Krembil Brain Institute, the Sprott Department of Surgery and the Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s Disease is leading the trial.

“With this surgery, our objective is to use authentic cells, to have them integrate into the brain and restore lost physiologic function,” says Dr. Lozano. “If successful, this treatment could have implications for the Parkinson’s community both in Canada and beyond.”

Building on a long-standing partnership

This new clinical trial builds on an existing partnership between the McEwen Stem Cell Institute at UHN and BlueRock Therapeutics. Dr. Gordon Keller, Director of the McEwen Stem Cell Institute and Dr. Michael Laflamme, senior scientist and Robert R. McEwen Chair in Cardiac Regenerative Medicine at the McEwen Stem Cell Institute both hold positions at BlueRock Therapeutics as scientific advisors.

By working together, research leaders at UHN and BlueRock Therapeutics hope to pave the way for future collaborations in other clinical areas in the hopes of bringing more life-changing treatments to patients sooner.

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