Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, and though its prevalence is growing, there are currently no medical interventions that are able to reverse or slow the disease. Most current therapies address the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease rather than the underlying cause of the disease.
Stem cells appear to offer a promising opportunity for treating Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative disorders, and a recent review published in Current Alzheimer Research has covered research into the ways stem cells can be applied to these disorders. Specifically, the authors of the review discuss the stem cell sources that may offer the potential to treat neurodegenerative diseases and the mechanisms by which these stem cells may confer benefits to this set of patients.
According to data collected so far, stem cells may be both safe and effective in treating neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease, but the mechanism by which they produce benefits for those with these disorders is not entirely clear. There are some data that show that the replacement of degenerated tissue with new proliferative stem cells accounts for stem cell benefits in models of neurodegenerative disorders, while other data show that stem cells can lead to advantageous enhancements in the expression of synaptic proteins.
Evidence from other studies, however, suggest that stem cells help with neurodegenerative disease through the release of neurotrophic factors that lead to paracrine benefits. Additional studies point to modulation of the immune system as the way that stem cells may help those with neurodegenerative disorders.
Future research will help to elucidate the specific mechanisms by which stem cells can provide effective therapy for people with neurodegenerative disorders. It may be the case that a variety of stem cell types used in multiple ways can be helpful for neurodegenerative disease therapy, and research will help to delineate the different ways stem cells can be used and inform the therapies that are developed.
Reference: Bali, P, et al. (2017). Potential for stem cells therapy in Alzheimer’s disease: Do neurotrophic factors play a critical role? Current Alzheimer Research, 14(2), 208-220.