Stem Cell Therapy For Parkinson’s Disease (Parkinsonism)

April 10, 2012

Parkinsonism, known as Parkinson’s Disease, is a disorder of elderly population commonly occurring after the age of 60 years but it can present at younger age and also can run in families. According to an estimate, seven to ten million people are suffering from Parkinsonism world wide and among them one million are Americans. Every year 60,000 new cases of Parkinsonism are diagnosed in America. With so many sufferers, Parkinsonism stands as one of the major health problems.

Parkinsonism is actually a degenerative disease of brain in which dopamine producing cell in substantia nigra (a part of mid brain) are lost due to degeneration. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for neuronal circuits in mid brain which regulate movements. When there is deficiency of dopamine then movement disorder results manifesting as slowing of movements, tremors of hands and other body parts and rigidity of muscles. As time passes symptoms of Parkinsonism get worsened and at advanced stage even walking becomes difficult. It increases morbidity and mortality among the elderly population due to hypostatic pneumonia and other diseases.

Why there is a need for more durable treatment of Parkinsonism?

The usual treatment of Parkinsonism consists of synthetic dopamine, dopamine analogue (drugs having dopamine like action, anticholinergic drugs and others. The basic principle of drug therapy is either to replace dopamine or take drugs having anticholinergic properties controlling tremors. Anti-parkinsonism drugs have been used successfully to control symptoms of Parkinsonism but there are some drawbacks of taking drugs which create the need of more durable treatment. The main disadvantages of taking anti-parkinsonism drugs include,

  • Drugs need to be taken on daily basis that create problems of drug compliance; patients often miss doses of medicine
  • Drug treatment has side effects that can be serious
  • Control of symptoms is not uniform in the whole day and varies with unpredictable response sometimes
  • Effects of drugs are progressively lost over time and after 4-5 years of treatment it becomes difficult to control symptoms of the diseases.
  • often single drug treatment is insufficient and patients needs more drugs to control symptoms

Stem cell therapy a correct way of treating Parkinsonism

Use of stem cells in curing different diseases has passed through its stages of infancy and childhood now; it is an established mature treatment that is being used successfully in the treatment of many diseases. Stem cell therapy has advantage of curing diseases rather than controlling symptoms transiently. Parkinsonism is one of the diseases in which stem cell therapy has shown promising results. Stem cell therapy has been successfully used in the treatment of Parkinsonism; now a number of facilities worldwide are providing stem cell therapy for Parkinsonism.

Stem cells are taken from cord blood of new born babies which is of no use for the neonate. Stem cells are collected and stored for use in future. This is 100% safe and effective treatment having no ethical issue as against embryonic stem cells taken from aborted fetuses. Stem cells transplanted into the brain take prosperities of degenerated cells of substantia nigra and symptoms of Parkinsonism gradually disappear over time. It has been found that stem cell therapy at earlier stages of the disease carry excellent results and around 85% patients get complete cure of the disease and the remaining will get good control of disease at lower doses of anti-Parkinson drugs.

In United States a lot of research is underway to make stem cell therapy more beneficial; in Mexico stem cell therapy is being performed successfully at different centers. These centers use cord blood as a source of stem cells and have excellent track record of stem cell therapies in different diseases including Parkinsonism. Future of stem cell therapy is bright as it is not a kind of drug that needs safety and multi-step evaluation on animals. It is a natural way of treating Parkinsonism and is fully safe without risk of side effects.

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