Parkinson’s disease affects millions of people worldwide. About 500,000 people are currently living with Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. Although the symptoms can be treated, there is no known cure. Scientists are investigating how regenerative medicine and stem cell science could be used to treat or prevent the disease.
People with Parkinson’s disease don’t have enough dopamine – a chemical that allows messages to be sent to the parts of the brain that control movement and some forms of thinking. New research provides some of the strongest evidence to date that Parkinson’s may start in the gut and spread upwards through the nervous system to the brain.
Stem cell scientists are taking two general approaches to understanding and treating this disease. The first approach involves understanding the disease and looking for new drugs to treat it. Current treatments for Parkinson’s include the drug Levodopa, which was discovered in the 1960s. It is converted into dopamine in the body, so it acts as a stand-in for the lost dopamine-producing neurons. Some other drugs act like dopamine to stimulate the nerve cells. Patients are also treated with occupational therapy, physiotherapy, healthy diet and exercise. Surgery, such as deep brain stimulation with implanted electrodes, is used to treat more advanced cases, especially in those where the drugs are working less well.
The stem cells we use for the treatment of Parkinson’s disease are always in compliance with the strict safety standards and regulations set by the SFDA. Theoretically, stem cells will finally differentiate into dopaminergic neurons or join in and assist dopamine transport channels, and then they will complete their reconstruction function. We believe that although any type of stem cells can be used if they meet the safety requirements; it is safer to use a single type of stem cell. The mesenchyme stem cells derived from either body fat or umbilical cords can differentiate into nerve cells including dopamine-producing cells, and the obtained effect can last for a much longer time.
After the stem cell treatment, patients demonstrate positive emotions, improved thinking, more expressive, intelligible and louder speech, and more persistent memory and intellect.