Written By: Michelle Wrona, Science Senior Editor
After previously focusing on stem cell therapy methods for treating Parkinson’s disease, it is now time to focus on a new disease: Alzheimer’s disease. This is probably the most common neurodegenerative disorder and form of dementia that many have heard of, resulting in the loss of brain cells. It’s involved with memory loss and cognitive impairments. It also comes with two types: early and late onset. Early onset AD can impact individuals as young as 30-40 years old, though late onset is more frequent, impacting those over the age of 60.
Common symptoms of the disorder is memory loss, gradual forgetting of the names and identities of family members and friends, personality and behaviour alterations, and the repetition of questions and statements. While the exact cause of the disease is not known, scientists have been able to determine that various genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors have caused the onset of the disease. In terms of brain pathology, it increases amyloid and tau protein buildup within the brain. There is no cure, though multiple therapeutic strategies exist.
In terms of stem cell therapy for AD, there are multiple ways that scientists can target the pathology of the disease and lessen the severity of symptoms. These include:
· Replacing damaged neurons with other cells
· Improving functional recovery and memory
· Regeneration of neurons
Via an IV, Mesenchymal Stem Cells are able to be introduced into the body systematically, and are most effective when the cells are introduced in large quantities, where they can target inflammation in the body. Transplantation of these cells have been proven to improve functional recovery for this disease by promoting survival, rescuing cells in vitro and increasing metabolic recovery. AB deposition is also an aftereffect, where A-beta is a protein that becomes accumulated in an AD-impacted brain due to the tau and amyloid tangles that become deposited. While stem cell therapy, for now, does not cure AD patients, they can greatly halt the progression of the disease whilst regenerating neurons that become damaged over time due to hyperphosphorylated tau protein. This is why this form of dementia is known as a “tauopathy,” or a neurodegenerative condition involving the deposition of tau.