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Cell transplantation in Huntington’s disease

16 May 2017

Professor William Gray performing procedure with Neuromate

Cardiff University is pleased to announce plans to conduct a stem cell transplantation procedure that could benefit people affected by Huntington’s disease (HD) in Wales.

The Brain Repair and Intracranial Neurotherapeutics (BRAIN) Unit kicked off Huntington’s Disease Awareness Week (15-21 May) by unveiling its intention to perform the first of its pioneering procedures by the end of this year.

The aim of the surgery is to use advanced technologies to deliver stem cells into patients who are living with HD - a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that attacks the central nervous system - in the hope of slowing the development of symptoms.

Unlike any other neurodegenerative disorder, Huntington’s disease is caused by a single faulty gene, which is currently incurable and affects everything from a person’s movement to their feelings and thought processes.

Professor of Functional Neurosurgery at the (BRAIN) Unit William Gray was awarded a Life Sciences Bridging Fund to conduct the new procedure, which will assess the effectiveness of a novel delivery system in stem cell transplantation, in three patients with Huntington’s disease by March 2018. The delivery system will be based on the drug delivery technology developed by Renishaw plc.

Professor William Gray with neuromate

This will be the second time the University has collaborated with world-leading engineering and scientific technology company Renishaw, whose neuromate® technology also enabled Professor Gray to perform the first ever robot-assisted epilepsy neurosurgery in Wales earlier this year.

This latest advancement is hoped to be a next step for the University’s path towards becoming a centre of excellence for developing and delivering novel therapies for brain repair in neurodegenerative diseases.

“The procedure marks a next stage in our battle to combat the debilitating effects of this currently incurable disorder,” said Professor Gray.

“Whilst the measurability of the surgery’s success may not be clear-cut for more than a year post-transplantation, we are hopeful the procedure could significantly contribute to the long-term development of therapies for thousands of people living with Huntington’s disease.”

Professor William Gray Professor of Functional Neurosurgery, Neuroscience and Mental Health Innovation Institute

Health and Care Research Wales Director, Jon Bisson, said: “I am delighted to see BRAIN playing such a vital role in driving novel therapies into clinical practice. The unit is one of many internationally recognised research centres and units in Wales, making a positive impact on the health and wellbeing of the people of Wales.”

Paul Skinner, General Manager of Neurological Products at Renishaw, added: “We are pleased that Renishaw’s expertise in engineering is continuing to support pioneering research at the University Hospital of Wales. It is exciting to be part of a collaboration that sees precision engineering and innovative surgical practice working in synergy to improve patient outcomes.”

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Developments in neuroscience and mental health research mean that we take another step closer to solving the mysteries lying behind psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders.