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Stem Cells— A Hallmark in the Treatment of Neurological Disorder

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Eman Fatima
Eman Fatimahttps://www.scientiamag.org
Eman Fatima is an M.Phil student at the National Center of Excellence in Molecular Biology, University of the Punjab, Lahore. She completed her Bachelor in Biochemistry from Government College University Faisalabad. She has a deep passion for research on the molecular foundation of life and aims to communicate it through writing on the Scientia Magazine.

“Now science has presented us with a hope called stem cell research, which may provide our scientists with many answers that have for so long been beyond our grasp.” –Nancy Reagan

According to Dr. An, Ms. Lynn Bertrand was diagnosed with ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, the same type of condition the physicist Stephen Hawking suffered) about 24 years ago. Lynn was miserably unable to walk, eat, and even sleep. She was taking medication, but all those treatments failed to treat her illness. Her family was told to be prepared for the worst of the situation.

Fortunately, somebody informed Lynn and her husband about an innovative method of treatment: Stem Cell Therapy. They agreed to this therapy. After two days of the first treatment, Lynn could walk with a walker’s help. Her body started regaining much of its functions like her vision was improved, her left arm started functioning, and her hair started regrowing. Lynn has become the foremost supporter of umbilical cord stem cell therapy to treat ALS-like neurological disorders. 

Neurological Disorders

Neurological disorders are related to the central and peripheral nervous system. They include epilepsy, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), migraine, thrombosis, and traumatic disorders. These disorders affect hundreds of millions of the World’s population. According to WHO, more than 6 million people die because of stroke each year. More than 50 million people are diagnosed with epilepsy and 47.5 million people with dementia globally. Alzheimer’s may contribute to 60-70 percent of dementia cases, and Migraine is more than 10 percent preventable worldwide.

Even with its complexity, the central nervous system is nevertheless intriguing and challenging to comprehend. Irreparable impairments, including physical and cognitive problems, can be caused by various conditions affecting it. Many bacterial, viral, fungal, and parasitic infections can affect the nervous system. The disease or an immune response to the infection may cause neurological disorders. 

Despite having some potential for endogenous regeneration, the adult brain cannot achieve complete recovery when it gets damaged. Moreover, pharmaceutical therapies for underlying disease processes may have limitations such as temporary efficacy, lack of full neurological recovery, or overwhelming cost. Therefore, therapeutic interventions are needed to address brain-related disorders. Over time, Stem cells have shown great potential in the treatment of various neurological disorders.

What are Stem Cells?

Stem cells are the undifferentiated cells that have the potential to develop into any specialized type of cell, e.g., muscle cells, blood cells, and brain cells. These cells keep on dividing over a long period. Stem cells are present in almost every human tissue and provide a renewal capacity to most of the organs. This ability makes them serve as the repair system for the body. 

Researchers and scientists are very interested in stem cells because they could be crucial in health and medical research and treat many diseases like skin burns, cancer, and neurological disorders.

Dr. Daniel Kota says: “We have reached a critical point in the history of stem cells that the only thing between us and a massive number of stem cell treatments are regulatory agencies such as the FDA, but the number of stem cell therapies is so overwhelming that some are just falling through the cracks.’’

What are clinical trial outcomes?

The potential utilization of stem cells for neurological conditions has been studied in clinical trials. Different types of stem cells, such as embryonic stem cells, mesenchymal stem cells, neural stem cells, and induced pluripotent stem cells, have been evaluated. In 2001, a double-blind, sham-controlled surgery was performed on Parkinson’s disease patients.

This surgery gave promising results, which encouraged researchers to continue clinical trials. Several other trials on different neurological conditions, such as Huntington’s disease, Epilepsy, and Alzheimer’s disease, are in progress. Moreover, stem cell-based therapies are getting more popular for traumatic central nervous system injury and stroke. A mesenchymal stem cell product has been cleared by Japanese authorities to treat spinal cord injuries.

What is the mechanism of Stem Cell Therapy?

Stem cell therapy is based on repairing or replacing damaged neurons to prevent further degeneration. The localization of these cells stimulates the tissue repair and maintenance of the injured areas of the brain. When transplanted, stem cells move towards damaged areas of the brain due to the expression of chemokines and growth factors, where they differentiate into host tissue cells, replacing injured neural tissue.

SC secretes neuroprotective growth factors, increasing differentiation and maintenance of neural functions. Improvements in neural activity through therapeutic mechanisms have been demonstrated in animal studies. These cells have the potential to generate even new neurons. Different types of SCs are being applied to treat neurological disorders.

Neural Stem Cell therapy

Neural stem cells (NSC) would be the most logical and appropriate stem cell therapy for treating neurological conditions. However, an adult’s NSC cannot be harvested because it is present deep within the adult brain. Thus, they are acquired from the brain of the aborted fetus and are prepared for transplantation purposes. Due to this situation’s ethical and practical concerns, an alternative source of NSC is needed.

Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells 

Professor Shinya Yamanaka (The 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine) discovered that mature cells can be reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells. This understanding can be used to develop neural progenitor cells from induced pluripotent stem cells to be exploited for therapeutic purposes. 

SCT for different diseases

Transplantation of NSC in animal models improved dyskinesia (involuntary, erratic, writhing movements of the face, arms, legs, or trunk) in Parkinson’s, reduced lesions in Huntington’s disease (a condition that stops parts of the brain from working properly over time), reduced the lesion size in stroke (brain attack), improved learning memory in Alzheimer’s disease, and increased life span in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The use of NSC proved to be safe in human studies. Embryonic stem cells (ESC) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) have also shown a potential to restore brain functions and neuroprotection in Parkinson’s disease.

Challenges to SCT

 However, the implementation of stem cell therapy still faces challenges. It is essential to determine the type of stem cell used, the number of them administered, the route of administration, the optimal method, preconditioning, and the injection schedule. More research is also necessary to determine the long-term safety of stem cell treatment and the recipient’s age. Despite these concerns, stem cell therapy has great potential for treating neurological disorders. Further research and well-planned studies are needed to explore its potential fully.

References:

  • Alessandrini, M., Preynat-Seauve, O., De Bruin, K., & Pepper, M. S. (2019). Stem cell therapy for neurological disorders. South African Medical Journal, 109(8 Supplement 1), S71-S78.
  • Hachimi-Idrissi, S. (2023). Stem cell therapy in neurological disorders: promises and concerns. Exploration of Neuroprotective Therapy, 3, 346-362.
  • Hassan, A. U., Hassan, G., & Rasool, Z. (2009). Role of stem cells in treatment of neurological disorder. International journal of health sciences, 3(2), 227.
  • Jamali, F. A., & Dahbour, S. S. (2017). Stem Cell Therapies in Neurological Disorders. Advances in Stem Cell Therapy: Bench to Bedside, 31-59.
  • Rahman, M. M., Islam, M. R., Islam, M. T., Harun-Or-Rashid, M., Islam, M., Abdullah, S., … & Mostafa-Hedeab, G. (2022). Stem cell transplantation therapy and neurological disorders: current status and future perspectives. Biology, 11(1), 147.
  • Sakowski, S. A., & Chen, K. S. (2022). Stem cell therapy for central nervous system disorders: metabolic interactions between transplanted cells and local microenvironments. Neurobiology of disease, 173, 105842.
  • https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/case-lynn-bertrand-als-stem-cell-therapy-success-story-suhyun-an

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