Cord Blood and Parkinson’s Disease
Stem cell research has shown that stem cells can play an integral role in the treatment and prevention of a variety of conditions. One such condition that stem cells can help to both prevent and treat is Parkinson’s disease (PD). Adult stem cells have been found to be effective in treating this condition, and cord blood stem cell research also shows promise in preventing and treating Parkinson’s disease. But what exactly is Parkinson’s disease and what is the relationship between stem cells and Parkinson’s disease prevention and treatment?
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative central nervous system disorder. It occurs when the dopamine-producing cells found in the substantia nigra region of the brain degenerate.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that regulates brain processes involved in movement, controlling movement, physical balance as well as emotional responses.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive disease, meaning that it persists and worsens from the onset of symptoms. In the United States alone, a minimum of 500 000 individuals are diagnosed with the condition annually.
Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms
There are four main symptoms associated with Parkinson’s disease:
- tremor: of the head, arms, legs, jaw or hands
- rigidity: stiffness of the legs and trunk
- postural instability: impaired balance
- bradykinesia: slowness of movements
What Causes Parkinson’s Disease?
Almost two-thirds of all cases of Parkinson’s disease are due to sporadic causes, meaning that they are not genetically based. However, the remaining one-third of cases are hereditary and are linked to specific genetic mutations.
Several studies have found that there is a 14% greater risk of Parkinson’s disease in first-degree relatives of affected individuals than in individuals who do not have a relative with the disease.
Diagnosing Parkinson’s Disease
Generally, brain scans, MRIs and CT scans are ineffective with regard to the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, as these neurological scans tend to appear normal in cases when the individual has the condition, making diagnosis difficult.
However, a new gene sequencing chip has been developed and is believed to be able to help in the efficient diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease.
Stem Cells and Parkinson’s Disease
Numerous studies have found that adult stem cells are effective in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. This is because stem cells are able to regenerate the dopamine-producing cells involved in the disease.
One recent stem cell study found that symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, including trembling, were minimized shortly after treatment with stem cells. This process involved the removal of tissue sample containing adult neural cells from the patient, which were then cultured into dopamine-producing neurons. The cells were then injected into the brain.
Cord Blood and Parkinson’s Disease
In addition, cord blood stem cell research has found that stem cells derived from human umbilical cords are effective in both the onset prevention and treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Cord blood has also been known to be effective in the treatment of a variety of other diseases.
One study found that cord blood stem cells minimize the effects of neurological conditions like Parkinson’s. A recent study involving mice found that administering human umbilical cord stem cells greatly delayed the onset of symptoms of Parkinson’s disease as well as the death of mice with the disease.