About Parkinson's Disease Stem Cell Therapy
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What is Parkinson’s disease?
This is a disease that affects people who do not have enough dopamine in their body. Dopamine is a chemical that permits messages to be sent to the part of the brain which controls movement and some form of thinking.
Parkinson’s disease targets and destroys neurons and nerve cells which produce dopamine. The disease also affects other areas of the brain which accounts for associated problems such as thinking, sleep, and motivation.
As the dopamine nerve cells die, tremors and rigidity develop and movement slows down. Sometimes dementia is seen in the later stages when the disease spreads out and affects other nerve cells.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
In the rare cases where the cause is known, Parkinson’s’ disease is caused by a genetic problem that is inherited. In most cases, the cause is not known. The disease affects men more than women and although it can affect younger people, it mostly affects people over 40.
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease vary with each individual person. During the early stages, the symptoms may be unnoticed as they are mild. Symptoms typically begin on one side f the body and remain worse on that side even after both sides are affected by the symptoms.
Current treatment for Parkinson’s disease
- Tremor: The shaking usually begins in the hands or fingers when it is at rest.
- Bradykinesia: This is slowed movement which happens over time. It makes regular simple tasks difficult. You may drag your feet as you find it difficult to walk and your steps may become shorter.
- Rigid muscles: The muscles may experience stiffness and limit the range of movement. Rigid muscles may also cause pain.
- Impaired posture and balance: Balance problems may be noticed and your posture may stop.
- Speech changes: Speech problems may develop and you may slur, speak softly and hesitate before talking. Rather than the usual inflections, your speech may be more of a monotone.
- Loss of automatic movements: Unconscious or automated movements such as smiling. Blinking and swinging the arms while walking may cease.
- Writing changes: It may become difficult to write and the writing may appear small.
Current treatment using drugs aims at converting the drug into dopamine inside the boy to replace the lost dopamine. Other treatments include, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and a healthy diet. Surgery involves deep brain stimulation with implanted electrodes but is rarely done unless in the more advanced cases. Current treatment can relieve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease but cannot slow down or reverse the damage to the brain nerve cells.
How could stem cells help?
Scientists are researching on ways to replace damaged cells. Although the cause of Parkinson’s disease is not known, scientists know which areas of the brain and which cells are involved. Because a single, known type of cell is affected, Parkinson’s may be treated by replacing the lost nerve cells with healthy new ones.
Stem cell research has great potential to treat Parkinson’s disease by creating dopamine-producing cells from stem cells
A lot of work still remains to be done to generate robust cells which can survive and perform their appropriate function in the host brain.
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