Science 3 min read

New Stem Cell Treatment Could Mean End of Parkinson's Disease

In a new study of treatments for Parkinson's disease, researchers claim that developing stem cell technologies could provide a huge breakthrough in the struggle against neurodegenerative diseases.

Future stem cell treatments could provide a solution to the struggle against Parkinson's Disease ¦ SpeedKingz / Shutterstock.com

Future stem cell treatments could provide a solution to the struggle against Parkinson's Disease ¦ SpeedKingz / Shutterstock.com

With an estimated 7-10 million patients worldwide, Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s.

Like other age-related conditions, Parkinson’s incidences have risen along with the general increase in life expectancy.

In January, researchers published an article warning that Parkinson’s disease could grow to epidemic proportions. Driven mainly by aging, experts project the number of Parkinson’s patients to reach 12 to 17 million by 2040.

Although Parkinson’s disease is noncommunicable, its risk factors are.

Read More: New AI Better Than Humans in Diagnosing Mental Disorders

A Parkinson’s pandemic is looming, but the situation isn’t hopeless.

Based on the progress in recent advances in “therapies to slow, stop, or reverse Parkinson’s Disease”, there is a strong justification that there’s a “message of hope” to all Parkinson’s patients.

Soon, a world without Parkinson’s may be scientifically possible.

Stem Cell Transplants: A Radical way to Treat Parkinson’s

Today, Parkinson’s treatment is generally based on medications that improve motor impairment. But, their efficiency decreases over time and they trigger a host of side-effects that are hard to cope with.

Because Parkinson’s affects dopamine-producing neurons, these drugs increase the levels of dopamine – a neurotransmitter responsible for movement control.

But there’s no cure to the damage in brain structure that underlies Parkinson’s disease.

One of the most potential therapeutic paths for Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative disorders is stem cell technology.

While genetic therapies focus on reprogramming defective cells and keeping them healthy, stem cell therapies follow a more radical approach.

Since Parkinson’s disease causes nerve cells to lose function, replacing these cells altogether, via stem cells, offers the potential for repairing the brain and finding a cure to Parkinson’s.

According to authors of a new study published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease:

“If successful, using stem cells as a source of transplantable dopamine-producing nerve cells could revolutionize care of the PD patient in the future. A single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout a patient’s lifespan, reducing or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications,”

The team of neurologists from the U.S. and Sweden reviewed new stem cell technologies being developed and how fast they could get into clinical trials.

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Thanks to human induced pluripotent stem cells, which allow for the production of neurons from the patient’s own cells, the “starting material” is available in abundance.

However, how long will this take?

Researchers don’t give a hard time frame, but the next two decades would bring significant progress to therapies based on “dopaminergic cell precursors”, or stem cells that differentiate into dopamine-producing neurons.

“This approach to brain repair in PD definitely has major potential, and the coming two decades might also see even greater advances in stem cell engineering with stem cells that are tailor-made for specific patients or patient groups. At the same time, there are several biological, practical, and commercial hurdles that need circumventing for this to become a routine therapy.”

The future is promising for neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, but it will most likely take another decade or two before these methods are fully available to the public.

Read More: 3D Models of Human Brain Tissues Created Using Stem Cells

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Zayan Guedim

Trilingual poet, investigative journalist, and novelist. Zed loves tackling the big existential questions and all-things quantum.

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    Clint Cary February 26 at 11:37 pm GMT

    Are they looking for Guinea pigs To test on? Give me a call or msg.

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