Stem cell therapy is a unique approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease(AD). It involves the introduction of Mesenchymal Stem Cells into the body via IV. In large quantities, these cells can find damage within the body and repair it. Therefore, this property can make stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease possible.
What is Alzheimer’s disease?
AD is the most common cause of dementia, a general term for memory loss and other mental illnesses serious enough to interfere with daily life. It is a degenerative condition that causes the loss of brain cells.
Alzheimer’s accounts for 60-80% of dementia cases worldwide. It usually affects people over the age of 60 but it can affect people as young as 30-40 years old. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, “Alzheimer’s is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States. On average, a person with Alzheimer’s lives four to eight years after diagnosis, but can live as long as 20 years, depending on other factors.”
It is a progressive disease that worsens over time. In its early stages, memory loss is mild but with time patients lose the ability to communicate and respond to their environment.
Causes of AD
Genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors all together may cause the start of Alzheimer’s. However, the exact reason of the disease is still unknown. On the other hand, the scientists do know that origin of AD coincides with the brain’s inability to function. Increase in amyloid and tau protein buildup within the brain may be one of the reason but is yet to be proven.
Stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) or stromal cells can differentiate into many different types of cells within the body, including bone cells, cartilage, muscle cells, and even neural cells. They remain asleep in the bone marrow until called upon to promote healing within the body. From a study, “Stem cells have therapeutic effects using regeneration and substitution of cells and tissues themselves. The therapeutic strategy of stem cells has two directions. One is to induce the activation of endogenous stem cell, and the other is to regenerate the injured cell or tissues through stem cell transplantation”.
Aims of stem cell therapy
Stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease aims to replace the damaged cells with healthy stem cells. They can grow on their own, hence, creating new healthy brain cells.
- Improve functional memory
- Regenerate neurons
- Improve overall functional recovery
- Replace damaged cells with health cells
No stem cell treatment for Alzheimer’s disease are currently approved. Positive effects have been seen with neural stem cell transplants given to mice with a disease similar to AD, but researchers are still studying what these stem cells are doing and how they might help repair the brain.