In recent years, there has been significant interest in determining the role of stem cell therapies in various neurodegenerative diseases. While there is still much work to be done in this area, there is potential for stem cells to offer a cure for these diseases. In particular, stem cells can regenerate tissue and repair damage. Through the targeted application of stem cells at the point of treatment, they can differentiate into beneficial, regenerative cells, potentially treating diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis. While there is still much work to be done in this area, the potential for stem cells to offer a cure for these diseases is very exciting.
In recent years, there has been significant interest in determining the role of stem cell therapies in various neurodegenerative diseases. Various in vitro and animal model studies (1) have confirmed the following properties of different types of stem cells: formation of new myelin, prolongation of neuronal vitality, reduction of oxidative stress, immunomodulation, and formation of new blood vessels, all of which translate into neuroprotection (2,3).
Although it is necessary to strengthen further the evidence on safety/efficacy, cell type, dosage, routes of administration, etc., the currently available information and data show tolerability and delayed progression of diseases, including multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease (4-17).
The treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS) based on regenerative medicine has developed such a strong foundation of evidence that the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation has recently recommended including severe forms of MS among the indications for autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (18). A recent systematic review found that 70% of patients with MS showed disease stabilization after the administration of stem cells (19). With this, the academic and scientific world has opened the door for clinical studies to explore the roles of other types of stem cells, such as those from Wharton’s jelly or the umbilical cord, whose safety of intrathecal administration has already been documented (8).
Parkinson’s disease (PD) results from the progressive loss of neurons in specific brain regions. The current treatment approach consists of improving symptoms with medications or neurosurgery but not preventing damage to the neurons involved, meaning that greater neuroprotective strategies must be developed (20).
The ability of stem cells to repair the damage caused by PD has been demonstrated in vitro. Studies on the safety and efficacy of stem cell treatment in animal models of PD are conclusive, so research in humans has been authorized. Thus far, the clinical evidence can be summarized as follows: i) Safety studies of their application in humans leave no doubt: stem cells are a therapeutic tool with a meager rate of undesirable effects and are not associated with severe adverse effects. ii) Although not yet decisive, efficacy studies’ evidence is becoming more robust. Stem cells are emerging as a therapy for improving the patient’s clinical condition, radiological imaging features, and neuropsychological scores. (21-27).
Regarding the role of stem cells in Alzheimer’s disease, there is an excellent theoretical claim for a potential benefit (16,28). Some studies in animal models confirm this (29), while the evidence in humans is limited but very promising (30-34).
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13. Zhou Y, Zhang X, Xue H, Liu L, Zhu J, Jin T. Autologous Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation in Multiple Sclerosis: A Meta-Analysis. Stem Cells Int. 2019;2019:8536785. doi: 10.1155/2019/8536785.
14. Chen JJ. Overview of current and emerging therapies for amytrophic lateral sclerosis. Am J Manag Care. 2020;26(9 Suppl):S191-S197. doi: 10.37765/ajmc.2020.88483.
15. Siwek T, Jezierska-Woźniak K, Maksymowicz S, Barczewska M, Sowa M, Badowska W, et al. Repeat Administration of Bone Marrow-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells for Treatment of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. Med Sci Monit. 2020;26:e927484. doi: 10.12659/MSM.927484.
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