Recently, researchers transplanted stem cells into patients suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and observed promising results, particularly with respect to the safety of using stem cells in this group of patients. The specific type of stem cells used are called autologous bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells. These cells have been deemed promising candidates for treating Parkinson’s patients for a variety of reasons, and so researchers have begun to use them in patients. The hope is that as we collect more and more data, we will gain a more comprehensive understanding of if and how these cells can improve the lives of those with Parkinson’s Disease.
In the current study, researchers transplanted the bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells in 7 patients with Parkinson’s Disease. The patients ranged in age from 22 to 62. The patients were then followed for a period of 10 to 36 months. The researchers used measures such as the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS), the Hoen and Yahr (H&Y), and Schwab and England (S&E) scores to evaluate Parkinsonian symptoms in these patients.
Given that the researchers did not observe any major adverse side effects, they conclude that the use of these stem cells in Parkinson’s Disease patients appears to be safe. They also found it promising that certain Parkinson’s Disease symptoms improved in some patients following stem cell transplantation. For instance, facial expression, freezing episodes, and patients’ gaits showed some improvement. However, given that these observations were subjective, the researchers are careful to mention that they cannot claim that the stem cells caused the improvements that were observed. Nonetheless, 2 of the patients were able to significantly reduce their doses of their Parkinson’s medications.
This study was uncontrolled and involved a small number of patients, so future research is needed to better understand the potential of bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells for helping Parkinson’s Disease patients. However, it is promising to see that there were no adverse side effects in this group of patients and that some symptoms appeared to improve.