Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is an intractable disease resulting in localized neurodegeneration of dopaminergic neurons of the substantia nigra pars compacta. Many current therapies of PD can only address the symptoms and not the underlying neurodegeneration of PD. To better understand the pathophysiological condition, researchers continue to seek models that mirror PD’s phenotypic manifestations as closely as possible. Recent advances in the field of cellular reprogramming and personalized medicine now allow for previously unattainable cell therapies and patient-specific modeling of PD using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs can be selectively differentiated into a dopaminergic neuron fate naturally susceptible to neurodegeneration. In iPSC models, unlike other artificially-induced models, endogenous cellular machinery and transcriptional feedback are preserved, a fundamental step in accurately modeling this genetically complex disease. In addition to accurately modeling PD, iPSC lines can also be established with specific genetic risk factors to assess genetic sub-populations’ differing response to treatment. iPS cell lines can then be genetically corrected and subsequently transplanted back into the patient in hopes of re-establishing function. Current techniques focus on iPSCs because they are patient-specific, thereby reducing the risk of immune rejection. The year 2018 marked history as the year that the first human trial for PD iPSC transplantation began in Japan. This form of cell therapy has shown promising results in other model organisms and is currently one of our best options in slowing or even halting the progression of PD. Here, we examine the genetic contributions that have reshaped our understanding of PD, as well as the advantages and applications of iPSCs for modeling disease and personalized therapies.
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