The term dementia refers to a group of symptoms that affects thinking, memory, and social abilities such that it interferes with a person’s daily life. Dementia is not a specific disease per se. However, the condition may be caused by several different diseases.
Generally, dementia involves memory loss. However, many factors contributes to its onset. Having memory loss alone does not mean that you have dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is the major cause of dementia in the elderly, but other factors also contribute to it. Some symptoms of dementia may be reversible. This, however, depends on the cause.
ABOUT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Alzheimer’s disease is a disorder of the nervous system, characterized by the death of brain cells. It results in cognitive decline and loss of memory.
Alzheimer’s disease is the major form of dementia. Studies show that it contributes to 60-80 percent of dementia cases in the United States.
More than 6 million Americans were diagnosed with dementia in 2013. Of these, 5 million had Alzheimer’s. This figure is expected to double by 2050.
Alzheimer’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder. The initial symptoms are mild, but they become more severe as the disease progresses.
HOW DO I KNOW THAT I HAVE ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE? WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
The major symptom of Alzheimer’s disease is memory loss. The patient finds it difficult to remember recent conversations or events. Memory loss worsens as the disease progresses, and other symptoms develop as well.
The patient may notice that he or she finds it difficult to remember things or organize thoughts. A friend or family member may also notice as the symptoms worsen.
Alzheimer’s disease causes changes in the brain structure. These changes lead to growing trouble with:
- Thinking and reasoning
- Making judgements and decisions
- Performing and planning familiar tasks
- Changes in behavior and personality
HOW IS ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE TREATED?
Alzheimer’s disease has no known cure. When brain cells die, they cannot be reversed.
However, the lives of Alzheimer patients can be eased with certain therapeutic interventions.
The Alzheimer’s Association has listed the following as key elements of dementia care:
- Management of health conditions that occur alongside Alzheimer’s disease
- Day-care programs and activities
- Participation in support groups and services
There are medications that can treat Alzheimer’s disease per se. However, some medications exist that may minimize the symptoms and improve the quality of life of the patient.
Drugs approved by the FDA for relief of symptoms include:
These drugs are all cholinesterase inhibitors. Another drug, memantine, may be used together with a cholinesterase inhibitor, or alone.
WHAT CAUSES ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE?
Like other types of dementia, Alzheimer’s is caused by death of brain cells. The disease is neurodegenerative, meaning that the brain cells die progressively (over time).
In an Alzheimer patient, the nerve cells and neural connections are fewer.
Autopsies have shown the presence of tangles or plaques in the brains of Alzheimer patients. These plaques lie within the nerve cells and they are made from tau, a protein.
Why these changes occur still remains a mystery to researchers.
UNAVOIDABLE RISK FACTORS FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE INCLUDE:
- Genetic factors
- Family history of the condition
STEM CELL THERAPY FOR ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE
Principles of Stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s
Stem cell therapy is a modern approach for explored for Alzheimer treatment.
The tangles and plaques that form in the brains of Alzheimer patients affect two major proteins: the ‘tau’, and the ‘amyloid beta’. And because much damage is done to the brain tissues, neutrophins are produced in smaller amounts compared to a healthy brain.
The goal of stem cell treatment is to replace the damaged brain cells with healthy stem cells which can then grow into healthy brain cells.
Different types of stem cells are used for this purpose:
- Induced pluripotent stem cells
- Embryonic stem cells
- Mesenchymal stem cells
- Neural stem cells
Several studies have been performed on animals such as transgenic mice. The studies were done with different types of stem cells. Injection of stem cells into the hippocampus gave mixed results in different studies. These results ranged from migration of donor cells to the area affected, and improvement in cognitive ability in 4-7 weeks, to no cell migration in some studies.
Presently, there are 17 clinical trials investigating the role of stem cells in Alzheimer’s disease.
Animal studies have shown that stem cells holds great promise for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. A particular study found that mice injected with human umbilical cord blood had improved motor function, and cognitive capacities. The research team discovered that monocytes gotten from human cord umbilical blood gulped the plaque fragments that caused the Alzheimer’s disease.
Japanese researchers are treating Alzheimer’s disease in stages via transplantation of mesenchymal stem cells from the fat tissue in patients to the blood stream. The results gotten so far have shown a ray of hope that there could be a cure for Alzheimer’s disease in a decade.
Induced pluripotent stem cell also have an important role to play in the study of Alzheimer’s. Medical scientists extract the skin cells of Alzheimer patients and reprogram them to create neuorns. These neurons exhibit some of the important features of Alzheimer’s and assists scientists to have a better understanding of how the brain produces the tangles and plaques that cause Alzheimer’s disease. This in turn facilitates the development of effective therapies.
Potential for stem cell therapy in Alzheimer’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is one of the most common causes of dementia. Despite several decades of serious research in AD there is no standard disease modifying therapy available. Stem cells hold immense potential to regenerate tissue systems and are studied in a number of brain-related disorders. For various untreatable neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease (AD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and Parkinson’s disease (PD) (current-approved drugs provide only symptomatic relief), stem cell therapy holds a great promise and provides a great research opportunity. Here we review several stem cell transplantation studies with reference to both preclinical and clinical approaches. We focus on different sources of stem cells in a number of animal models and on molecular mechanisms involved in possible treatment of neurodegenerative disorders. The clinical studies reviewed suggest safety efficacy and translational potential of stem cell therapy. The therapeutic outcome of stem cell transplantation has been promising in many studies but no unifying hypothesis exists for an underlying mechanism. Some studies reported paracrine effects exerted by these cells via release of neurotrophic factors, while other studies reported immunomodulatory effects by transplanted cells. There are also reports supporting stem cell transplantation causing endogenous cell proliferation or replacement of diseased cells at the site of degeneration. In animal models of AD, stem cell transplantation is also believed to increase expression of synaptic proteins. A number of stem cell transplantation studies point out great potential for this novel approach in preventing or halting several neurodegenerative diseases. The current challenge is to clearly define the molecular mechanism by which stem cells operate and the extent of actual contribution by the exogenous and/or endogenous cells in the rescue of disease. Link to the study >>>>> HERE
Recent advances: Decoding Alzheimer’s disease with stem cells
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is an irreversible neurodegenerative disorder that destroys cognitive functions. Recently, a number of high-profile clinical trials based on the amyloid cascade hypothesis have encountered disappointing results. The failure of these trials indicates the necessity for novel therapeutic strategies and disease models. In this review, we will describe how recent advances in stem cell technology have shed light on a novel treatment strategy and revolutionized the mechanistic investigation of AD pathogenesis. Current advances in promoting endogenous neurogenesis and transplanting exogenous stem cells from both bench research and clinical translation perspectives will be thoroughly summarized. In addition, reprogramming technology-based disease modeling, which has shown improved efficacy in recapitulating pathological features in human patients, will be discussed. Link to the study >>>>> HERE
Stem cell study points to new approach to Alzheimer’s disease >>>>> HERE
Alzheimer’s disease: How stem cells could help >>>>> HERE
Stem cells and Alzheimer’s disease: University of California Television >>>>> HERE
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s disease and dementia?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia. Dementia refers to an inability to think, or to recall things. This usually interferes with the patient’s daily life and activities.
What are the early symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?
Memory impairment is the first symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. The patient may also experience a decline in thinking ability, vision and spatial issues, and impaired judgement or reasoning.
What are the different stages of Alzheimer’s disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is divided into three stages: preclinical, early (also referred to as the mild stage), middle (moderate), and late (severe).
What causes Alzheimer’s disease?
We do not fully understand the exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease in adults. Evidences points to a combination of lifestyle, genetic, and environmental factors.
Can Alzheimer’s disease be inherited?
Early-onset familial Alzheimer’s, a rare form of the disease, can be inherited. It is caused by genetic mutations. If one of the gene mutations is passed down, the child may have the disorder.
From where do stem cells originate?
Stem cells are present in many tissues and organs. The bone marrow is the richest source of stem cells. However, the most convenient region for harvesting is the umbilical cord.
How are adult stem cells harvested?
The physician draws the stem cells from the umbilical cord. The stem cells and the growth factors will then be concentrated using specially designed equipment. The physician then injects the cells into the destined regions.
Does stem cell therapy have any side effects?
Side effects are very minimal. It may be accompanied by minor irritation or pain at the site of injection. Because we are using your own stem cells, the chances of rejection by your immune system are extremely low.