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Stem Cell Clinical Trials To Further Study Alzheimer’s Disease

By Arushi Neravetla


To give a bit of background, Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is named after a famous neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzhiemer. AD is a condition that is normally found in patients above 60 years old, but people in the mid-30s to 40s can have it. Alzheimer’s is considered to be the most common causes of dementia, which is a chronic condition that pertains to the impairment of memory loss and improper reasoning. The inability to make decisions and the lack of critical thinking skills are typical symptoms of a diagnosed Alzheimer’s patient. To elaborate, patients are seen often suffering from mood swings, social withdrawal, delusions, and forgetfulness. Furthermore, the origin of AD is said to have a strong genetic etiology, although lifestyle and environmental factors play a role in the disease as well. Recently, scientists and researchers have started developing applications of stem cell therapy to find ways to alleviate AD.


Stem cell therapy is one of the new-age approaches being explored for Alzheimer’s, where plaques and tangles of neurons in the brain affect two essential proteins known as amyloid-beta and tau. The affected proteins not only damage brain tissues, but they also decrease the production of neutrophils. Neutrophils, a type of white blood cells found in bone marrow, are responsible for protecting one’s body and are significant in fixing tissue damage [1]. Specifically, if one has an unhealthy production of neutrophil, one is more susceptible to infection. Researchers are using stem cell treatments to replace damaged cells with healthy stem cells, hence, creating new healthy brain cells. Additionally, the transplant is usually autologous, which means it is the patient’s own cells in nature, so there are fewer chances of any immunological response [1]. In other words, the transplant that is received is from the patient's own neural cells, making it difficult for the immune system to respond to the cells in order to replace the damaged cells.


In the ongoing process of clinical trial testings, researchers use different types of stem cell such as neural stem cells (NSCs), mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) [1]. For example, several preclinical studies were done on rodents, where neural stem cells were injected into the affected areas to produce different outcomes, and increases in cognitive improvement from 4-7 weeks were observed [1]. However, transplanting these neural stem cells in a patient is not simple and straightforward because it only offers temporary support for the brain. Moreover, the results of these tests limit the development of neural stem cells and mostly focus on mesenchymal stem cells in Alzheimer's. In phase one of the study, the transplantation of the MSC stem cells was derived from the umbilical cord blood and preserved cognitive function, but there were no results of improvement [1].


Currently, researchers and scientists are in the development of approaching different methods in stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s patients. Researchers are challenged with the idea of a distinct set of new stem cells that can potentially pose damage to the targeted areas in the brain, and if not transplanted properly, they can hurt the existing neuronal network. Despite this, researchers are continuing to develop robust plants for stem cell therapy that offer a new and promising way to treat Alzheimer's disease!


References

  1. Patel, HH. “Stem Cell Therapy for Alzheimer's.” News, 26 Feb. 2019, www.news-medical.net/health/Stem-Cell-Therapy-for-Alzheimers.aspx.

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