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Stem Cell Therapy for Alzheimer's: Latest Findings and Treatments

Discover the latest breakthroughs and treatments in Alzheimer's disease with the promising potential of stem cell therapy. Explore the benefits, risks, and ongoing research in this cutting-edge field. Stay ahead of the curve and find hope for managing and potentially reversing Alzheimer's with our in-depth guide.

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Stem Cell Therapy for Alzheimer's: Latest Findings and Treatments

Louis A. Cona, MD
Updated on
May 12, 2023

Stem cell therapy is a unique approach to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves the systemic introduction of Mesenchymal Stem Cells into the body via IV. When introduced in large quantities, these stem cells can find inflammation within the body and repair it. This unique property of stem cells is what potentially makes them a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. 

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Alzheimer's disease, a form of dementia that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, is a growing public health concern. According to the Alzheimer's Association, an estimated 6.2 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's, and this is projected to rise to nearly 14 million by 2050. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the presence of amyloid protein deposits in the brain.

While current Alzheimer's treatments, including anti-anxiety drugs, aim to treat the symptoms of moderate Alzheimer's, there is a need for more effective treatments that can slow or halt the progression of the disease. In recent years, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising potential treatment for Alzheimer's, and several clinical trials are underway to determine the safety and efficacy of this approach.

Stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Stem cell therapy for Alzheimers is a unique approach to treating Alzheimer’s Disease. It involves the systemic introduction of Mesenchymal Stem Cells into the body via intravenous injection IV. When introduced in large quantities, these stem cells can find and repair inflammation within the body. This unique property of stem cells potentially makes them a viable treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease. Stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's may be able to:

  1. Improve functional memory
  2. Regenerate neurons
  3. Improve overall functional recovery
  4. Replace damaged cells with healthy cells

Clinical trial considerations

According to Lawrence Goldstein, Ph.D., The increased amount of plaques and tangles within the brain of an Alzheimer’s patient affects two essential proteins: ‘amyloid-beta’ and ‘tau.’ (2) Stem cell treatment for Alzheimer's Disease aims to replace damaged cells with healthy stem cells that can grow on their own, creating new healthy brain cells.

Research shows exciting results

Research suggests stem cell therapy may improve brain health by reducing swelling, repairing damaged nerve cells, and improving cognitive function in people with mild to severe Alzheimer's disease and other related dementias.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), in particular, have been found to both support the immune system and reduce inflammation. According to a 2020 study, MSCs may suppress inflammation processes in different ways, through the upregulation of anti-inflammatory factors or the downregulation of proinflammatory factors. In addition, MSCs may also suppress immune reactions via direct cell contact.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are activated by inflammatory mediators and release paracrine factors and microvesicles in the bloodstream. These molecules reach the site of injury and, together with MSCs previously recruited, modulate the progression of inflammation and facilitate tissue repair within the brain. (3)

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Current limitations

More research is needed to promote accelerated approval to validate the use of stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's and mild dementia and to better understand its mechanisms of action. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved stem cell therapy as a treatment for Alzheimer's, and the cost of this therapy may be a barrier for some patients. A healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, a balanced diet, and engaging in mentally stimulating activities, is beneficial for brain health and may help to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.

Stem cells can improve functional recovery for Alzheimer's

Choi continues to state that the transplantation of stem cells has been able to improve functional recovery for Alzheimer’s Disease. Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) could promote survival, increase metabolic activity and help to rescue the AD cell model in vitro. Chi also states that the transplantation of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs) has reduced Aβ deposition, improved memory, and alleviated AD pathology in AD mouse models. 

What makes stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s so exciting is its possibility to halt the progression of the disease and regenerate damaged neurons rather than just slowing it or managing symptoms.  

Mesenchymal stem cells for alzheimers

Stem cell research for Alzheimer's Disease

Stem cell research has proven the safety of using mesenchymal stem cells to treat various conditions. (4)  The efficacy of stem cell therapy ranges as per condition; however, the literature is well on its way to solidifying the effectiveness of treatment for certain conditions, Alzheimer's being one of them.

What is Alzheimer's disease?

Alzheimer's is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder affecting memory, thinking, and behavior. It is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for up to 70% of all cases. The disease is characterized by the accumulation of beta-amyloid plaques and tau protein tangles in the brain, leading to brain cell death and a progressive decline in cognitive function.

As the disease progresses, individuals with Alzheimer's may experience memory loss, difficulty with language and communication, mood and personality changes, and eventually lose their ability to perform daily activities. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but treatments are available to manage symptoms and slow the progression of the disease.

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What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease can become much more debilitating than simple memory loss. According to the Mayo Clinic (1), people with Alzheimer’s may:

  • Forget conversations, appointments, and names
  • Get lost easier, lose their sense of direction
  • Have difficulty finding the correct word to associate with a familiar object
  • Repeat questions and statements
  • Eventually, forget the names of friends and family members
  • Changes in personality or behavior

These symptoms can significantly impair one’s ability to function at work or home, resulting in a loss of independence or self-sufficiency.

Causes of Alzheimer’s Disease

A combination of genetic, lifestyle, and environmental factors may cause the onset of Alzheimer’s.   The disease's exact cause is unknown, but scientists do know that Alzheimer’s coincides with the brain’s inability to function normally. 

Alzheimer’s may also be characterized by an increase in amyloid and tau protein buildup within the brain; though this is a symptom of Alzheimer’s, it has not been proven to cause the disease.

Stem cells and neurons

The prevalence of Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease affects millions worldwide. Early Alzheimer's disease symptoms are characterized by mild cognitive impairment, memory loss, difficulty with language, disorientation, mood swings, and other mental and behavioral symptoms. Alzheimer's is the most common cause of dementia and can profoundly impact the lives of affected individuals and their families.

Current research suggests a combination of age-related changes in the brain and genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors may contribute to developing Alzheimer's disease. The significance of these factors in raising or lowering the risk of Alzheimer's may vary from individual to individual.

How is Alzheimer's disease treated currently?

Alzheimer's disease is currently treated with various medications that aim to alleviate the symptoms of the disease, but there is no cure. Two classes of drugs are commonly used to treat Alzheimer's: cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA receptor antagonists. Cholinesterase inhibitors, such as donepezil, rivastigmine, and galantamine, are designed to slow the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning. NMDA receptor antagonists, such as memantine, regulate the activity of glutamate, another neurotransmitter involved in memory and learning.

These medications can help improve cognitive function and treat symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and agitation, but they do not halt the progression of the disease. Additionally, they may cause side effects such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea and may interact with other medications.

In addition to medications, lifestyle changes such as regular exercise, a healthy diet, and engaging in mentally stimulating activities benefit brain health. They may help slow the disease's progression. Caregiver support and managing behavioral symptoms like aggression and wandering are essential to Alzheimer's disease management.

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Is there a cure for Alzheimer's disease

Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer's disease. While medications and lifestyle changes can help to alleviate the symptoms of the disease and improve the quality of life for those affected, they do not halt the progression of the disease. There is ongoing research to understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer's better and to develop new treatments that may be more effective in treating the disease. Stem cell therapy is one potential avenue of research explored as a possible treatment for Alzheimer's, but more research is needed to validate its long-term effectiveness.

Stem cell therapy as a new treatment for Alzheimer's

In recent years, stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising potential treatment for Alzheimer's. Stem cells can differentiate into various types of cells, including brain cells, potentially replacing damaged cells and improving cognitive function. As such, stem cell therapy is being explored to slow or halt the progression of Alzheimer's and potentially even reverse some of its effects.

Clinical trials and research suggests stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's may be beneficial

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a type of stem cell that can differentiate into multiple cell types, including bone, cartilage, and fat cells. They are found in several tissues in the body, including bone marrow, adipose tissue, and umbilical cord tissue, and they can be isolated and cultured in the laboratory for therapeutic use.

"In the context of Alzheimer's disease, MSCs are being investigated as a potential treatment option due to their ability to promote tissue repair and reduce inflammation in the brain. Many mechanisms have also been proposed, including reduction of Aβ plaques, BACE, and tau hyperphosphorylation, reversal of microglial inflammation, and promotion of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Immunomodulatory and anti-inflammatory effects have been observed by upregulating neuroprotection and downregulating proinflammatory cytokines. Another meaningful way for MSCs to participate in tissue repair is the secretion of extracellular vesicles and microvesicles, which have been widely explored. (5)"

Studies have shown that MSCs can help to reduce the buildup of Aβ plaques in the brain and improve cognitive function in animal models of Alzheimer's disease. MSCs can do this by secreting anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant molecules that can reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the brain. Also, MSCs can differentiate into neurons, which can help replace damaged or lost nerve cells in the brain.

While more research is needed to validate the use of MSCs as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease, early studies have shown promising results. They suggest that this approach may hold potential as a new therapeutic option for this debilitating disease.

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The Benefits of stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's disease

Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for Alzheimer's disease holds several potential benefits, including:

  1. Reduction of inflammation: MSCs can secrete anti-inflammatory molecules, which can help reduce brain inflammation (neuroinflammation). Chronic inflammation is associated with the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease, and reducing inflammation can help to slow the disease's progression.
  2. Stimulation of tissue repair: MSCs can differentiate into different cell types, including neuron-like cells, which can help to replace damaged or lost nerve cells in the brain. This process can potentially help to restore cognitive function in people with Alzheimer's disease.
  3. Reduction of amyloid plaque buildup: Studies have shown that MSCs can reduce the accumulation of amyloid beta protein, a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease. This can potentially slow the disease's progression and improve cognitive function.
  4. Minimal risk of rejection: MSCs are known to have low immunogenicity, which means they are less likely to be rejected by the recipient's immune system. This can make MSC therapy a safe and viable treatment option for Alzheimer's disease.

Importance of conducting clinical trials

It is essential to conduct clinical trials to determine the safety and efficacy of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for Alzheimer's disease before it can be considered a viable treatment option. While early studies have shown promising results, more research is needed to validate the safety and efficacy of this therapy.

Clinical trials are essential for determining the safety and efficacy of any new treatment. MSC therapy is no exception, and it is necessary to understand its potential risks and benefits before it can be used to treat people with Alzheimer's disease.

In clinical trials, the safety of MSC therapy will be closely monitored to ensure no adverse effects on the recipient's health. The efficacy of the treatment will also be measured to determine if it positively impacts cognitive function and other symptoms of Alzheimer's disease.

Moreover, clinical trials will also help to optimize the dosage, route of administration, and timing of MSC therapy to maximize its effectiveness while minimizing the risk of adverse effects.

In summary, conducting clinical trials is crucial to validate the safety and efficacy of MSC therapy for Alzheimer's disease. Only through rigorous testing and analysis can we determine whether this therapy can be considered a viable treatment option for people with Alzheimer's disease.

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The impact that successful clinical trials could have on the future of Alzheimer's disease treatment and public health

Successful clinical trials of mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for Alzheimer's disease could significantly impact the future of Alzheimer's disease treatment and public health.

If clinical trials demonstrate that MSC therapy is a safe and effective treatment option for Alzheimer's, it could provide a new and promising avenue for treating the disease. MSC therapy can potentially address some underlying causes of Alzheimer's disease, including inflammation, tissue damage, and amyloid plaque buildup.

Successful MSC therapy could improve the quality of life of people with Alzheimer's disease by slowing or halting the progression of the disease, potentially improving cognitive function, and reducing symptoms.

Moreover, successful MSC therapy could also have significant public health implications. Alzheimer's disease is a major public health issue affecting millions worldwide, and its prevalence is expected to increase in the coming years. MSC therapy can potentially reduce the burden of Alzheimer's disease on healthcare systems, caregivers, and the economy as a whole.

Additionally, suppose MSC therapy proves to be a safe and effective treatment for Alzheimer's disease. In that case, it could open up new avenues of research for other neurodegenerative disorders and other conditions involving tissue damage and inflammation.

Stem cells for alzheimers

Does stem cell therapy work for Alzheimer's?

Stem cell therapy has emerged as a promising treatment for Alzheimer's disease, with numerous studies suggesting that it can improve cognitive function and reduce the symptoms of the disease.

Stem cell therapy has the potential to repair damaged brain tissue and reduce inflammation, which are two of the significant contributors to the development and progression of Alzheimer's disease. Stem cells can also release growth factors that help to promote the growth of new brain cells, which can help to restore cognitive function.

Recent studies have reported positive outcomes for stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's disease. For instance, one study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease reported that administering mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) improved cognitive function and reduced amyloid beta plaques in a mouse model of Alzheimer's disease.

Another study published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine reported that MSC therapy improved cognitive function and reduced inflammation in a small group of people with Alzheimer's.

These findings suggest that stem cell therapy could be a game-changer in the treatment of Alzheimer's disease, with the potential to slow or even halt the progression of the disease.

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Advantages of Stem Cell Therapy for Alzheimer's

Stem cell therapy has shown promise in treating Alzheimer's disease by addressing the underlying causes of the disease, such as reducing the number of amyloid deposits and beta-amyloid plaques in the brain, which is thought to play a role in the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer's. Stem cell therapy may slow down or even halt the progression of the disease and improve cognitive function, daily life, and quality of life for those affected by Alzheimer's.

Common Side Effects of Stem Cell Therapy

While stem cell therapy is generally considered safe, there can be some common side effects, such as swelling, headaches, and fatigue. These side effects are usually mild and temporary, and the benefits of stem cell therapy may outweigh the risks for some individuals.

Risks and Drawbacks of Stem Cell Therapy as a Treatment for Alzheimer's

Despite the potential benefits, stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's is still considered experimental, and more research is needed to validate its use as a treatment. The cost of stem cell therapy can also be a drawback, as it is often more expensive than other treatments for Alzheimer's. Stem cell therapy may not work for everyone, and its effectiveness may vary depending on the individual and the stage of the disease. Discussing the benefits and risks with a healthcare provider and considering other options before initiating treatment is essential.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Alzheimer's disease is a complex neurodegenerative disorder that affects millions of people worldwide, and it is a severe condition that requires ongoing research and treatment. While current therapies for early-stage Alzheimer's can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life, there is still no cure.

However, stem cell therapy shows promise as a potential treatment for Alzheimer's, with mesenchymal stem cells being a current research focus. Clinical trials are ongoing to determine the safety and efficacy of this treatment. The results of these trials will be significant in further understanding the disease process and identifying new targets for therapy. Stem cells as an Alzheimer's treatment are currently in a preclinical stage but have shown the ability to slow functional decline,

In addition, monoclonal antibodies and other pharmaceuticals that target beta-amyloid and reduce amyloid deposits in the brain are being developed and may offer new options for treating Alzheimer's disease. Preclinical and clinical research in this area is ongoing, and pharmaceutical companies are working to gather the necessary safety and effectiveness data to bring new treatments to market.

As research continues, family members and caregivers need to be aware of the first symptoms of Alzheimer's disease and seek medical attention for their loved ones. Early intervention can help slow the disease's clinical decline and improve the quality of life for those affected. Treatments are available to manage symptoms such as memory problems and agitation in moderate to severe stages of the disease. With continued research and a better understanding of the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer's disease, we may one day find a cure and improve the lives of millions worldwide.

References

(1) Kumar A, Sidhu J, Goyal A, et al. Alzheimer Disease. [Updated 2022 Jun 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK499922/

(2) Singer NG, Caplan AI. Mesenchymal stem cells: mechanisms of inflammation. Annu Rev Pathol. 2011;6:457-78. doi: 10.1146/annurev-pathol-011110-130230. PMID: 21073342.

(3) Salari V, Mengoni F, Del Gallo F, Bertini G, Fabene PF. The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Epilepsy: Possible Treatments and Future Perspectives. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 18;21(24):9683. doi: 10.3390/ijms21249683. PMID: 33353235; PMCID: PMC7765947.

(4) Liu, Y., Liu, Y., Zhang, R., & Huang, J. (2019). The therapeutic efficacy of mesenchymal stem cells for Alzheimer's disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 68(1), 111-126.

(5) Liu XY, Yang LP, Zhao L. Stem cell therapy for Alzheimer's disease. World J Stem Cells. 2020 Aug 26;12(8):787-802. doi: 10.4252/wjsc.v12.i8.787. PMID: 32952859; PMCID: PMC7477654.

(6) Choi, S. S., Lee, S.-R., Kim, S. U., & Lee, H. J. (2014, March). Alzheimer's disease and stem cell therapy. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3984956/.

(7) Wei, L., Wei, Z. Z., Jiang, M. Q., Mohamad, O., & Yu, S. P. (2017, October). Stem cell transplantation therapy for multifaceted therapeutic benefits after stroke. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5603356/.

(8) van der Kant, R., Goldstein, L.S.B. & Ossenkoppele, R. Amyloid-β-independent regulators of tau pathology in Alzheimer disease. Nat Rev Neurosci 21, 21–35 (2020) doi:10.1038/s41583-019-0240-3

(9) Alzheimer’s Disease. (2018, December 8). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/symptoms-causes/syc-20350447.

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