(Bloomberg) -- Bayer AG said a cell therapy it’s researching for Parkinson’s disease showed promising results in a small study, raising hopes for a possible new way of treating the disease. 

The experimental therapy is made of dopamine producing neurons derived from stem cells, placed surgically into the brain of a patient with Parkinson’s disease. The aim is to repair the complex networks of neurons damaged by the disease, with a goal of helping patients regain muscle control, Bayer said.

The early-stage trial tested the cells in 12 volunteers. There were no major safety issues and the transplanted cells survived and were incorporated into the brain. Bayer plans to start recruiting patients into a larger study next year.

The results came as Bayer, battered by litigation and price pressure at its agrochemicals division, sought to highlight its smaller pharmaceutical unit. New drugs for prostate cancer, cardio-renal disease, stroke prevention and hot flashes have the potential to generate more than 12 billion euros ($13.1 billion) a year in revenue, the company reiterated in a presentation to investors. 

Bayer’s new chief executive officer, Bill Anderson, who took over on June 1 from Werner Baumann, is a pharmaceutical industry veteran. He faces challenges on multiple fronts, with competition building for the pharma unit’s aging blockbuster medicines and sales falling at the crop science unit due to plunging prices for glyphosate, the key ingredient in controversial weedkiller Roundup.

Earnings Weakness

Bayer last month pared its earnings forecast for the year, as it was also hurt by slow pharmaceutical sales in China.

Bayer has narrowed the focus of its pipeline of new medicines, targeting cardiovascular disease, oncology, neurology and rare diseases as well as immunology.

Parkinson’s disease affects more than 10 million people around the world, and more than 90,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year in the US, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation. 

The main existing treatment for the disease was developed decades ago. It seeks to increase the amount of dopamine in the brain but poses challenges for long-term use.

Bayer shares rose 0.8% in Frankfurt trading.

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