Parkinson’s disease stem cell explained
Stem cell therapy is being used for the treatment of Parkinson´s disease to improve complications, by using the patient’s own stem cells. Parkinson’s disease stem cell therapy helps patients suffering with this condition by enhancing specific body functions that allow for a better quality of life, reducing dependence on medication and improving the patient´s overall health.
What is Parkinson’s disease? Also known as shaking palsy, Parkinson’s disease is a progressive degenerative disorder that affects millions of people around the world. Parkinson’s disease patients don’t have enough dopamine, a chemical that transmits signals to the parts of the brain that controls and coordinates movements of the human body. This condition aims and destroys neurons that produce dopamine in substanta nigra and this process is called neuro-degeneration.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease
Parkinson’s disease can present some dangerous complications that result in being one of the biggest contributors of death in the USA and several other countries.
Although the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary from one patient to another and change over time, a Parkinson’s diagnosis will be considered if these main motor symptoms are evident over a long period of time.
• Bradykinesia: This is movement slowness where it is difficult for patients to perform physical activities like speech or getting up from a seat.
• Involuntary tremor: Usually shaking happens in the hands but it can also occur in the lower lip, legs, or the jaw. However, this symptom improves when one begins initiating and performing activities using the affected limb
• Muscle stiffness or rigidity: Legs, arms or trunk feel tight and achy and it can occur one side or body sides of your body • Postural instability (impaired balance and coordination): The patient will experience challenges while walking, maintaining balance and turning around. Usually, this symptom does not present itself at the time of diagnosis but is a common symptom that will occur later on.
It is worth noting that non-motor symptoms are common among all Parkinson’s disease patients and are more upsetting than the motor symptoms. That is the reason you should be on the lookout and discuss any early variations with your doctor. These symptoms include:
• Mood related disorders such as depression, getting irritated quickly and being anxious
• Cognitive changes like challenges with planning and playing attention, personality changes, dementia, language and memory challenges
• Orthostatic hypotension- low blood pressure when standing
• Sleep disorders such as insomnia, talking and walking while sleeping, restless legs syndrome and excessive daytime sleepiness
• A lot of sweating on feet and hands
• Change in urination frequency and urgency
• Fatigue and pain • Weight loss/ gain • Reduced voice volume
• Swallowing challenges as well as a lot of saliva caused by slow swallowing
Who is affected by Parkinson´s disease?
Typically, this condition happens to people above the age of 60 while early onset Parkinson’s occur at the age of 40. Parkinson´s disease is caused by an inherited genetic issue that upsets alpha-synuclein protein production in one in every twenty patients studied. Not only men are at a higher risk of suffering from the condition than women but also individuals exposed to pesticides and chemicals for a period of time.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
The root cause of this condition is still unclear; it´s better known what it does to the body but less known what causes Parkinson´s disease.
At StemCells21 we study stem cells, the relationship between PD damaged cells and factors like aging, environmental conditions, and genetics. Present-day treatments for the condition include Levodopa that is converted into dopamine and stands in for the damaged neurons. These treatments only help manage symptoms rather than reversing the brain’s nerve cell damage and over time the Parkinson’s condition become worse despite the medication.
How stem cell therapy is used to treat Parkinson’s disease
After cell replacement studies done in the 1980s-90s, many researchers and physicians have transplanted growing neurons from human fetuses into animals and individuals living with PD, with great improvements in some cases and little changes in others. The initial studies paved a way for major studies but later reported uncontrolled graft-induced movements which is a side effect seen in patients on prolonged Levodopa medication.
The introduction of young healthy cells into the human brain could be a remedy for Parkinson’s disease but there is little fetal tissue available to treat the huge number of patients, not forgetting the ethical issue. As a result, doctors are looking at induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells as an alternative source of new dopamine cells. Induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells are withdrawn from a Parkinson’s disease patient’s skin, regenerated in the lab and then used to create new and healthy neurons.
The future of Parkinson’s disease stem cell therapy
Parkinson’s disease stem cell therapy has paved the way toward achieving a cure for this disease, and we are making great progress at finding new ways to achieve the objective for our patients.
There´s still a lot of work to do, and areas open for debate among the scientific community:
• Identification of the type of cells that will be the best fit for research and treatment. So far, scientists have successfully made dopamine-producing neurons using embryonic stem cells but are not sure whether the laboratory grown neurons (iPS) will perform effectively in therapies as naturally produced neurons
• Ways to grow neurons in right quantities and at high safety standards
• Establishment of where and how to transplant the stem cells so as to perform effectively in the host brain without any complications.