Research Shows Potential of Stem Cells in Treating Brain Diseases
WASHINGTON, DC — Scientists today reported significant advances in the search for stem cell-based treatments for degenerative brain disorders, such as Huntington’s and Parkinson’s diseases. Other studies used stem cells to promote brain repair after a stroke and to understand how Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases spread across the brain, providing insight into new potential treatments. The findings were presented at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.
Neurodegenerative disorders have a large and increasing impact on today’s society. Alzheimer’s disease affects 44.3 million people worldwide and is expected to increase to 115.4 million people by 2050. An estimated 7 million to 10 million people around the globe are living with Parkinson’s disease. And while it’s difficult to determine the number of people with Huntington’s disease worldwide, in Western countries, it is estimated to affect about five to seven people per 100,000.
Today’s new findings show that:
- Stem cells made from patients have been used to identify the mechanism through which Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases can spread across the brain, shedding light on a potential treatment approach (Martin Hallbeck, PhD, MD, 133.22, see attached summary).
- Neural stem cells derived from unfertilized human eggs reduce symptoms of Parkinson’s disease when they are transplanted into the brains of animal models (Ruslan Semechkin, PhD, 137.01, see attached summary).
- Scientists have been able to reduce the presence of a defective protein responsible for Huntington’s disease, without affecting the levels of its normal protein counterpart, according to studies in stem cells derived from Huntington’s disease patients (Philip Gregory, PhD, 769.12, see attached summary).
- Stem cells can better promote repair of brain tissue after a stroke when they are injected into the damaged area as part of a precise mix of supporting cells (S. Thomas Carmichael, MD, PhD, 771.05, see attached summary).
Another recent finding discussed shows that:
- Neural stem cells unique to the motor system transplanted into a mouse model of Machado-Joseph disease alleviate its motor deficits and limit its destruction of cells in the brain’s cerebellum, the area responsible for regulating muscle movement (Luis Pereira de Almeida, PhD, 770.02, see attached summary).
“Researchers are using stem cells both as a tool to better understand diseases that attack the brain and as a potential therapy for such diseases,” said moderator Jane Roskams, PhD, of the University of British Columbia, Canada, an expert in the regeneration of damaged cells of the nervous system. “The work presented here today builds on the belief that science can someday end the devastation caused by neurodegenerative diseases.”
This research was supported by funding from a variety of private and philanthropic organizations. Find out more about stem cell research at BrainFacts.org.