At least 18 clinical trials are underway to explore stem cell therapy as a treatment for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Their findings will be critical, as Parkinson’s Disease is a common yet potentially debilitating disorder of the central nervous system characterized by stiffness, shaking, and coordination challenges. More than 200,000 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year.
What are stem cells and how can they help Parkinson’s Disease?
Stem cells are undifferentiated cells which can reproduce and give rise to specialized cell types all throughout the body. As “master cells,” they can become the cells the body needs most, and are found in bone marrow, adipose (fat) tissue, and umbilical cord tissue. While adults’ existing stem cells are multipotent and not as powerful as pluripotent stem cells which embryos use to grow and develop, researchers have found a way to revert them into a less differentiated state. Known as induced pluripotent stem cells, these cells can replace cells that the body can no longer produce on its own, including nerves.
Parkinson’s Disease begins in the substantia nigra, the part of the brain where dopamine is produced to trigger movement. The disease causes these cells to die off, preventing effective movement. Over time, the body loses significant motor function. Researchers are now studying how stem cell therapy may provide a potential alternative to slow down the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells and help improve symptoms.
These treatments may soon provide the potential to restore motor function in PD patients, thereby reversing the effects of the disease and reducing symptoms. Stem cells also enable researchers to develop effective brain models on which they can test new therapies. In addition to stem cell therapy, some benefits may be found in hyperbaric oxygen therapy for patients with Parkinson’s Disease.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s Disease. Both traditional and regenerative medicine can only provide an option for symptom improvement and possibly slow down the progression of the disease. More than a dozen clinical trials are underway and stem cell research for PD is still in its early stages. Patients with Parkinson’s Disease may find stem cell therapy as alternative option worth researching to help manage symptoms and improve their quality of life along with some dietary suggestions.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine, also known as Stem Cell Therapy in Tampa. Regenerative medicine seeks to replace tissue or organs that have been damaged by disease, trauma, or congenital issues.