In recent years, stem cells have continued to show promise for helping combat a host of diseases, many of which relate to the brain. A recent study by Yoo-Hun Suh and colleagues has demonstrated that a specific type of stem cell could help with both the prevention and treatment of the neurodegenerative disease, Alzheimer’s.
Patients with Alzheimer’s disease lose a significant number of brain cells as a result of the disease, and the resulting damage to brain tissue is associated with cognitive and behavioral symptoms. The disease is best known for causing significant memory difficulties in its sufferers. Because stem cells offer a way to introduce new cells into the organ, they are obvious candidates for Alzheimer’s therapy.
In the current study, published in PLOS One, the researchers set out to determine if they could overcome the technical difficulty of implanting human adipose-derived stem cells into the brain and, if so, whether these cells could improve the symptoms and the physical hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers achieved a number of notable results. First, they showed that the stem cells were able to penetrate the blood-brain barrier and migrate into the brain. Second, they demonstrated that a number of symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s disease improved with the administration of stem cells in a model of Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, learning and memory deficits were reversed. Finally, the scientists found that the administration of stem cells was associated with reductions in the physiological markers of Alzheimer’s disease – namely, the amyloid plaques in the brain that are a signature of the disease, as well as the protein that contributes to these plaques, called A. The researchers conclude that the stem cells may help with the therapy of Alzheimer’s and could potentially help with prevention as well.
That one study could achieve a technical proof-of-concept of administering the stem cells to the brain while also simultaneously demonstrating an improvement in symptoms and physiology associated with Alzheimer’s disease is incredible in terms of the potential for stem cells in aid in the therapeutic interventions of this disease.