Parkinson’s disease affects nearly half a million people in the United States. The National Institute of Health (NIH) estimates that each year around 50,000 people are diagnosed with the disease. Both numbers are expected to rise year over year due to an aging population.
As of now, the most common treatment utilizes a drug called levodopa to help stimulate dopamine production in the brain and in certain neurons that are linked with a person’s motor skills. The NIH does warn that this disease will only affect more and more people each year if we are unable to come up with new and more effective treatment and therapies.
Researchers are doing just that, and are looking into the viability of using stem cell therapy for treating brain damage caused by the disease.
Stem Cell Therapy in Parkinson’s patients:
Dr. Claire Henchcliffe (Department of Neurology at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, NY) co-authored the study with Malin Parmar, Ph.D., who is a professor in a research group called "Multidisciplinary research focused on Parkinson's disease at Lund University”
Dr. Henchcliffe and Professor Parmar both examined stem cells and the evolution of the therapy. In the simplest forms, the therapy would use stem cells to replace damaged neurons in a Parkinson’s patient.
Both Henchcliffe and Parmer explain that if this stem cell therapy is successful, it could revolutionize the care for patients affected by Parkinson’s. They also explain that a single surgery could potentially provide a transplant that would last throughout the patient’s lifespan, reducing, or altogether avoiding the need for dopamine-based medications, like levodopa.
The therapy doesn’t come without its risks, of course. Transplant rejection and involuntary movements called dyskinesias are both concerns. Professor Parmar explains that, “we are moving into a very exciting era for stem cell therapy.” This is due in part to recent advancements in stem cell technology, such as how the stem cells are harvested.
While these are just the beginning steps for creating a new therapy, things look promising in the decades to come. Here at Extract, we value medical advancements and are dedicated to saving physicians’ and clinicians’ time, so they have more time to spend on what’s most important: their patients.
About the Author: Taylor Genter
Taylor is the Marketing Specialist at Extract with experience in data analytics, graphic design, and both digital and social media marketing. She earned her Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Marketing at the University of Wisconsin- Whitewater. Taylor enjoys analyzing people’s behaviors and attitudes to find out what motivates them, and then curating better ways to communicate with them.