Updated: Mar 10, 2021
Neurodegenerative Diseases affect people by breaking down cells in the central nervous system. Because the central nervous system is directly involved with nearly every part of the body, when the nervous system begins to shut down it can be debilitating. The two most common neurodegenerative diseases are Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease known as PD and AD respectively. While there has been much research and study into neurodegenerative diseases, there is still a long way before doctors are able to fully understand the topic. As a disease both PD and AD are very much at the early stages of treatment. One promising treatment being looked at are stem cells.
While the use of stem cells for treating other physical conditions is well documented, the treatments for neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are less frequent. Currently the only conventional medicinal procedures for neurodegenerative disease are addressed at alleviating the symptoms, with the inability for addressing the underlying condition. In the cases of AD both animal and clinical studies have shown promising results on both efficacy and ethical dimensions (Chang-Geng Et Al.). As with many areas of study within stem cell research, the results are promising, but further research is needed.
Parkinson’s Disease or PD is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the person's central nervous system causing a reduction in dopamine. This lack in dopamine causes the tremors and restrictive movement commonly associated with people affected by PD. Current medical procedures target the symptoms and help with day to day life. Currently there is no cure, however studies are being done with the goal of instituting preventative procedures including stem cells and proper nutrition. Certain nutrients known as phytonutrients show promising results in terms of preventing the causing factors of PD. Along with nutrition, studies involving both vitro and vivo subjects have shown promising results in assisting with PD susceptible patients (Swietlik, Shukitt-Hale.)
Parkinson’s Disease requires additional study to determine a possible cure. One promising area of study uses converted stem cells to create brain cells outside of the body. Once those cells are created from a Parkinson’s patient, the scientists can observe Parkinson's behavior in a more controlled environment. Through this process scientists noticed that the changes made to the cell by Parkinson’s could be reverted to a previous state via gene editing and “Drug like molecules” (Harvard.)
Even if regenerative medicine cannot directly cure these tough neurological disorders, it at least can improve the rate at which we could find cures by potential other means. This topic has been of high priority and discussion among neurologists for some time. We hope that a breakthrough is made soon for treating these diseases that affect so many families throughout the world.
https://www.ars.usda.gov/research/project/?accnNo=436178\ (Swietlik, Shukitt-Hale)