A recent review has outlined the potential of using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s Disease. Parkinson’s Disease patients have been limited by the realities of their treatment options. Generally, treatments act to relieve symptoms that occur with Parkinson’s Disease rather than the underlying cause. More specifically, by substituting a brain chemical called dopamine, or by trying to enhance the effects that naturally occurring dopamine has in the brain, these treatments aim to reduce the motor symptoms that are commonly associated with the disease. Unfortunately, none of these treatments can actually regenerate the dopamine neurons that are destroyed by the disease.
Given the potential for stem cells to replace critical cell groups, researchers in neuroscience have reasoned that stem cells could provide a cell-based therapy for Parkinson’s Disease patients. Given that a loss of dopaminergic functioning in a key feature of the disease, using stem cells to restore this functioning could potentially relieve symptoms and also slow the progression of the disease.
Based on this rationale, researchers have wanted to perform clinical trials to determine how stem cells impact Parkinson’s Disease patients. Based on the research thus far, it seems that mesenchymal stem cells are the best candidate for cell-based therapies against Parkinson’s disease. However, there are several details that need to be worked out to determine which tissue or tissues would be best for deriving these stem cells and exactly how to use the stem cells to help patients. For instance, according to the authors of the review, it is likely that Parkinson’s Disease patients will need the transplant of cells that produce another brain chemical, serotonin, in addition to those that produce dopamine because serotonin is implicated in the non-motor symptoms of the disease.
Research to develop cell-based therapies for Parkinson’s Disease is still in its infancy. However, as our understanding of the disease itself – as well as of how stem cells can be used to treat neurodegenerative diseases – we will hopefully start to leverage stem cells to develop effective therapies that help Parkinson’s Disease patients.
Learn more about our stem cell treatment for Parkinson’s Disease here.