Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people all over the world. Whilst symptoms can be managed, there is currently no known cure for the disease. Stem cells appear to be the best hope for many Parkinson’s sufferers and their families.
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s is a condition where dopamine –producing nerve cells (neurons) are destroyed. As a result, a person with Parkinson’s won’t produce enough dopamine, a chemical essential for passing messages about movement to different parts of the brain. Parkinson’s is also linked to the formation of clumps of a particular type of protein, called alpha-synuclein. These clumps are called Lewy bodies and can interfere with nerve signals and movement.
As the dopamine nerve cells start to die, patients in the early stages of Parkinson’s will develop stiffness in their limbs and tremors. Movements will slow down, as the “message” to move is delayed. People with Parkinson’s may also struggle to sleep, suffer from depression, constipation, lose their sense of smell. Later stages of the disease may see the onset of dementia.
Causes of Parkinson’s
No one is sure what exactly causes dementia. In around 10% of cases there is a genetic link, where the person with Parkinson’s has inherited a problem that affects the production of the alpha-synuclein protein (the protein that clumps in the brains of some people with Parkinson’s). The cause of the remaining 90% of Parkinson’s diagnoses is unknown; whilst the disease occurs generally in people over 40, it does affect some people under the age of 40. Smoking and coffee appear to reduce Parkinson’s risks, although the reason for this is unknown. Some research has linked pesticide exposure to the development of Parkinson’s.
Current Treatment For Parkinson’s
Current treatment therapies for Parkinson’s involve replacing the dopamine that has bden lost by the destruction of dopamine producing nerve cells. Some drugs turn into dopamine in the body, whilst others act like dopamine by stimulating nerve cells. In advanced cases of the condition, surgery can be used to stimulate the brain.
Whilst these treatments treat the symptoms of Parkinson’s, none of them slow down the progression of the disease or repair existing damage caused to the nerve cells within the brain. As time progresses and more nerve cells die, the symptoms will worsen and further treatment will be needed.
By the time the early symptoms have shown themselves, bee identified by the patient and diagnosed by a medical professional, it is likely that an individual will have had Parkinson’s for a long time without knowing it. This means that, by the time Parkinson’s is diagnosed, considerable nerve damage has already occurred in the brain.
Stem Cell Application and Parkinson’s Disease?
Continued research into the use of stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease continues to signpost stem cell application as the best chance of slowing, halting or even reversing the damage caused by the disease. For more information about how stem cell application is used to treat Parkinson’s, read the article “ Stem Cell Application Offers Hope For Parkinson’s Sufferers”.
If you would like to know more about stem cell application for Parkinson’s disease, any other neurodegenerative disease, or another one of the conditions treatable with stem cell application, contact us.