Stem Cell Therapy for Parkinson's Disease in 2022

Louis A. Cona, MD
Sep 5, 2022
5
min read

Stem cell therapy may be a viable treatment option for Parkinson's Disease. Mesenchymal stem cells have the ability to target and reduce inflammation which may help neurological conditions.

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Stem Cell Therapy for Parkinson's Disease

Stem cell therapy may have the benefit of replacing and repairing damaged dopamine-producing nerve cells within the brain. This has already been found in a study conducted by Neelam K.Venkataramana and colleagues. Seven PD patients aged 22 to 62 years with a mean duration of disease 14.7 ± 7.56 years were enrolled to participate in the prospective, uncontrolled, pilot study of single-dose, unilateral transplantation of autologous bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BM-MSCs). Patients were followed up for 36 months post-transplant, 3 of the 7 patients showed significant improvement in their Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) of 38%.

According to Medical News Today "Currently, the most common therapy uses the drug levodopa to stimulate dopamine production in certain neurons associated with motor skills. These dopaminergic neurons are situated in the nigrostriatal pathway which is a brain circuit that connects neurons in the substantia nigra pars compacta with the dorsal striatum. However, levodopa has a wide array of side effects, from physiological to psychological ones. Also, in the long-term, the benefits of such dopamine-regulating drugs are limited. So, scientists must come up with more effective strategies for repairing the brain damage that Parkinson's disease causes."

At DVC Stem we are seeing promising results with Cord Tissue-Derived Mesenchymal Stem Cells, cell numbers and viability has largely increased making the treatment more effective than Bone Marrow-Derived treatments that were used in the early 2010s. The development of these advanced cellular therapies is making it possible to combat the progression of the disease without the resulting motor complications.

What is Parkinson's Disease (PD)?

Parkinson's Disease is a degenerative nervous system condition that affects one's movement. Symptoms often start quite gradually, with minor issues such as small tremors within the extremities (hands). Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson's Disease (PD) but certain medications do have the capacity to help manage symptoms. Some doctors may also recommend surgery to address certain symptoms, which involves regulating certain areas of the brain.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson's Disease (PD)?

Parkinson's DIsease (PD) can include a variety of symptoms that vary in severity and type amongst the affected population. Early signs of the condition can sometimes go unnoticed but as the disease progresses one can expect these symptoms:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Difficulty writing
  • Loss of automatic movements (Characterized by the inability to blink, smile or perform common body language practices)
  • Slowed overall movement (making everyday tasks more time consuming)
  • Muscle stiffness
  • Tremors or shaking

What causes Parkinson's Disease?

Parkinson's Disease is caused by a loss (or deterioration) of nerve cells in the brain. This loss of nerve cells within the brain results in a reduced amount of dopamine being created which acts as a messenger between the parts of your brain that control voluntary and involuntary movement. Therefore without that vital connection, your brain starts losing the ability to effectively control movement. Currently, it is unknown what causes the deterioration of nerve cells associated with Parkinson's Disease (PD). Currently, it is believed that both environmental factors, as well as genetic factors, may play a role in the loss of nerve cells.

Parkinson's Disease is a lifelong condition that can greatly impair the ability of one's daily functions. Traditional treatments only address the symptoms of the condition, but researchers are excited about the possibilities of certain gene therapies and stem cell therapy, which may have the ability to reverse damage and halt the progression of the disease.

What are mesenchymal stem cells?

Stem cells are the body's raw materials — cells from which all other cells with specialized functions are created. Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells that have self-renewal, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, signaling, and differentiation properties.  Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), self renewal capacity is characterized by their ability to divide and develop into multiple specialized cell types present in a specific tissue or organ.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can be sourced from a variety of tissue including adipose tissue (fat), bone marrow, umbilical cord tissue, blood, liver, dental pulp, and skin.  

MSCs are widely used in the treatment of various diseases due to their self-renewable, differentiation, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory properties. In-vitro (performed in a laboratory setting) and in-vivo (taking place in a living organism) studies have supported the understanding mechanisms, safety, and efficacy of MSC therapy in clinical applications. (3)

How do mesenchymal stem cells work in the body?

Mesenchymal stem cells utilize their self-renewal, immunomodulatory, anti-inflammatory, signaling, and differentiation properties to influence positive change within the body.  Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) also have the capacity to self-renew by dividing and developing into multiple specialized cell types present in a specific tissue or organ.  Mesenchymal stem cells are adult stem cells, meaning they present no ethical concerns, MSCs are not sourced from embryonic material.

Stem Cells for Parkinson's Disease are safe and effective

According the Venkataraman and colleagues, "A subjective improvement was found in symptoms like facial expression, gait, and freezing episodes; 2 patients have significantly reduced the dosages of PD medicine. These results indicate that our protocol seems to be safe, and no serious adverse events occurred after stem-cell transplantation in PD patients."

As stated in a 2005 study held by Brian Snyder,

Stem cells offer the potential to provide a virtually unlimited supply of optimized dopaminergic neurons that can provide enhanced benefits in comparison to fetal mesencephalic transplants. Stem cells have now been shown to be capable of differentiating into dopamine neurons that provide benefits following transplantation in animal models of Parkinson's disease.

Mesenchymal Stem Cell Therapies for Neurodegenerative Diseases

While there have been significant advances in the symptomatic management of these diseases that improve quality of life and at times survival, the available medications likely only slow the progression of neuronal death by a few months. The idea of using cell therapy to treat neurodegenerative diseases has been around for decades, most notably in Parkinson's Disease where a variety of cell transplant investigations have been performed with success.

According to a recent study conducted by Nathan P. Staff et al,

"The precise mechanism by which MSCs may exert beneficial effects in neurological disease is still being elucidated, but it appears that multiple different mechanisms may contribute. First, MSCs have been shown to secrete neurotrophic growth factors, including glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor, and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),which can be further enhanced under specific culture conditions.Neurotrophic growth factors have been shown to improve neuronal survival in a number of preclinical models of neuron injury, including ALS, PD, and MSA transgenic animalsand nerve injury models. Second, MSCs strongly modulate the immune system and can aid wound healing, and this mechanism has been exploited in disorders such as graft versus host disease and Crohn’s disease. From a neurodegenerative perspective, it has become increasingly recognized that neuroinflammation plays a significant pathomechanistic role."

Studies show promising results

"Considering the ability of MSCs to secrete neurotrophic factors, modulate inflammation, and possibly even act as mitochondria “donor”, it comes as no surprise that there is a lot of interest in the use of MSCs in the treatment of Parkinsons Disease, and a multitude of animal studies has shown promise. Treatments have resulted in improvement of motor function, protection of the nigrostriatal system, and improved striatal dopamine release in several studies using toxic lesion rodent models of Parkinsons Disease. Similar effects were reported with umbilical cord-derived MSCs with or without prior differentiation. For example, a recent study reported improvement of motor function, reduced microglial activation, and decreased loss of TH immunoreactivity, associated with local production of trophic factors.

Learn more about DVC Stem's protocol for Parkinson's Disease (PD) here: https://www.dvcstem.com/protocol

References:

(1) Venkataramana, N. K., Kumar, S. K. V., Balaraju, S., Radhakrishnan, R. C., Bansal, A., Dixit, A., … Totey, S. M. (2009, August 6). Open-labeled study of unilateral autologous bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in Parkinson's disease. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1931524409002205#!

(2) Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/unified-parkinsons-disease-rating-scale

(3) Department of Neurosurgery Department of Neurology and Neuroscience. (n.d.). Stem cell treatment for Parkinson's disease: an update for... : Current Opinion in Neurology. Retrieved from https://journals.lww.com/co-neurology/Abstract/2005/08000/Stem_cell_treatment_for_Parkinson_s_disease__an.5.aspx

(4) Staff, N. P., Jones, D. T., & Singer, W. (2019, May). Mesenchymal stromal cell therapies for neurodegenerative diseases. Mayo Clinic proceedings. Retrieved January 26, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6643282/

About the author

Louis A. Cona, MD

Medical Director | DVC Stem

Dr. Cona has been performing stem cell therapy for over 10 years. He is a member of the World Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine (WAAAM). He is also a recognized member of the British Medical Association, the General Medical Council (UK), the Caribbean College of Family Physicians, and the American Academy of Family Physicians. He is the Medical Director for DVC Stem a world-renowned stem cell therapy clinic located in Grand Cayman.

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