Forgetfulness and confusion is a normal part of aging right? However, most adults are not supposed to develop memory loss and or neurological degradation and should remain alert and able as they age. However, many suffer from neurological conditions. But there is hope.
Stroke results from the disruption of the blood supply to the brain, which causes ischemia, lack of oxygen in the brain, and thus, tissue destruction. Symptoms depend on what part of the brain is affected as well as the severity of tissue loss. In the presence of stroke, immediate treatment is required, but long-term management of inflammation and neovascularization of damaged tissue is imperative. The anti-inflammatory and potential regenerative properties of stem cell therapy may offer recovery from the damage due to stroke.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that gradually destroys memory and thinking skills due to the accumulation of abnormal proteins that cause amyloid plaques and tau tangles throughout the brain. These abnormalities cause neurons to work less efficiently and eventually lose their ability to function and communicate with each other. As neurons lose function and ultimately die, damage becomes widespread and the brain actually shrinks. Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States and there are currently no drugs that treat the disease. Trials investigating the ability of stem cells to rebuild lost nerve fibers to repair the damage caused by the progressive stages of Alzheimer’s are underway.
Dementia entails a group of symptoms that interfere with activities of daily living due to deficits in thinking, memory, and social abilities. People with dementia may experience memory loss, difficulty communicating, trouble organizing and planning, problems with coordination, disorientation, personality changes, inappropriate behavior, paranoia, agitation, and hallucinations. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common result of dementia.
Traumatic brain injury occurs when brain dysfunction ensues from external trauma causing dysfunction of brain cells. Intravenous mesenchymal stem cell therapy has been shown to improve functional recovery after traumatic brain injury.
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that affects close to one million Americans. PD is a chronic and progressive disorder that is thought to be caused by destruction of the dopamine (an important neurotransmitter) generating cells in the midbrain. The cause of PD is unknown and there is no cure so treatment is focused on medication and management of symptoms. Current research directions include investigations into new animal models of the disease and of the potential usefulness of gene therapy, stem cell transplants and neuro-protective agents. There is hope that mesenchymal stem cells will mitigate the degenerative effects of the advancing PD.
Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating neurological disease that is thought to be caused by destruction of the myelin sheaths (fatty protective insulation) around axons of the brain and spinal cord. Loss of myelin impacts the ability of these tissues to conduct signals and the inflammatory process can lead to scarring resulting in a broad range of symptoms. This myelin damage appears to be related primarily to an auto-immune dysfunction, but there also appears to be environmental and genetic factors involved. There is no known cure for the physical and cognitive defects associated with chronic Multiple Sclerosis. Many investigators are looking at using the regenerative properties of cell therapy to mitigate the impact of Multiple Sclerosis on the nervous system.
PN peripheral neuropathy is a degenerative disorder of the nerves (usually of the hands and feet) and has many causes including traumatic injuries, infections (neuritis), metabolic problems and exposure to toxins. One of the most common causes is diabetes, and many cases are due to auto-immune disorders, but frequently, the cause of neuropathy cannot be identified. PN Peripheral neuropathy often causes symptoms of numbness and pain described as burning or tingling. Physicians use a number of medications to reduce the painful symptoms of peripheral neuropathy. Some cases progress and are resistant to medical therapy, making it difficult to manage symptoms. There is hope that mesenchymal stem cells will mitigate some of the degenerative effects of neuropathy.
ALS Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis
ALS also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease is a debilitating neurologic disease that results from the destruction of upper and lower motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord. ALS is associated with rapidly progressive weakness, muscle wasting, spasticity, and difficulty breathing, swallowing and speaking. There is no known cause for ALS and genetics are implicated in only 5% of cases. There is no known cure for the physical defects associated with ALS. Many investigators are looking at using the regenerative properties of cell therapy to mitigate the impact of ALS on the nervous system.
Muscular dystrophy (MD) is a disease characterized by progressive skeletal muscle weakness, defects in muscle proteins (dystrophin concentration is greatly reduced), and the death of muscle cells and tissue. Diagnosis is based on muscle biopsy, laboratory evaluation (increased levels of creatine phosphokinase) and EMG findings. There are nine major types of MD and most types of MD are multi-system disorders with manifestations in body systems including the heart, gastrointestinal system, nervous system, endocrine glands, eyes and brain. MD has a strong genetic link. Treatment options are limited. There has been a keen interest in using stem cells to regenerate muscle tissue and there has been success in using human stem cells for MD in mice. There is hope that stem cell therapy may be effective in regenerating muscle damaged by MD.
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