Neurodegenerative diseases are causing and destroying neurons, causing damage to the individual''s mental and physical health. Parkinson''s disease, which affects over 10 million people around the world, is no less.
The illness first affects the brain of dopamine, causing the brain to lose weight, causing the person to develop the most apparent symptoms of rigidity, tremor, and postural instability.
Depressive, anxiety, memory problems, hallucinations, and dementia may be other symptoms of Parkinson''s disease.
By 2040, Parkinson''s disease cases will reach more than 14 million worldwide. Current therapy, including the use of the medication L-DOPA, are only able to address some of the motor symptoms of the disease and may result in serious, often adverse reactions.
Despite the positive news, there is still some room to think about it.
A radical strategy
Stem Cell replacement therapy, or regenerative medicine, is paving the way for treatment of Parkinson''s and other neurodegenerative diseases.
In the first clinical trial of its kind, the futuristic approach will be put to the test in a specific group of people with Parkinson''s disease with a mutation in the gene parkin.
The research was published in the current issue of the National Regenerative Medicine journal.
The opportunity to assist individuals who suffer from this genetic form of Parkinsons disease cannot be more special, but the findings from this study will directly impact patients who develop this disease through the sporadic or non-genetic illnesses, according to Jeffrey Kordower, the founding director of the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center, who has been elected chair of The Charlene and J. Orin Edson, the Distinguished Director of Arizona State University.
The result can reverse motor symptoms
The trial will take place at various locations, including the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, with Kordower as the principal investigator.
Kordower and his colleagues describe a technique to convert non-neuronal cells into functional neurons capable of relocating their fibrous branches across the brain, form synapses, release dopamine, and restore capacity to be hampered by Parkinson''s destruction of dopaminergic cells.
When implanted in rats'' brains, one group of experimentally engineered cells performs optimally in terms of survival, growth, neural connectivity, and dopamine production.
The results of such neural grafts have been shown to significantly reverse motor symptoms due to Parkinson''s disease.
How does it work?
There''s still way too much to learn.
Adult stem cells come in two forms. One type can be found in fully-developed tissues like bone marrow, liver, and skin. The second kind of adult stem cells - the focus of this study - are called induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs).
The process of generating the iPSCs used in the study is performed in two phases.
Adult blood cells are treated with several reprogramming strategies that enable them to revert to embryonic stem cells. The second phase involves these embryonic stem cells with additional reprogramming factors, causing them to differ into the desired target cells.
According to Kordower, the timing in which you give the second set of factors is crucial. If you treat and cultivate them for 17 days, then you can stop their divisions and differ them, at its best.
Can we expect a complete reversal?
Rats who received the 17-day iPSCs showed a remarkable recovery from Parkinson''s disease''s motor symptoms. The research further demonstrates that this effect is dependent on the dosage.
Recovery was negligible when a small number of iPSCs were grafted into the animal brain, but a large number of cells produced more profuse neural branching, and a complete reversal of Parkinsons symptoms.
The initial clinical trial will focus on a group of Parkinsons patients with a specific genetic mutation, known as a Parkin mutation.
If the treatment is effective, there will be even more trials.
A useful tool to deal with a wide spectrum of ailments, once effective.
Treatment may be combined with existing therapies to treat Parkinsons disease. After the brain has been seeded with dopamine-producing replacement cells, lower dosages of drugs such as L-DOPA might be used, enhancing beneficial results and mitigated side effects.
Such research lays the foundation for the replacement of damaged or dead neurons with fresh cells for a wide range of devastating diseases.
Patients with Huntington''s disease or multiple system atrophy or even Alzheimer''s disease might be treated in this manner for specific aspects of the disease process, according to Kordower.