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Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological condition characterized by loss of memory, confusion, and difficulty in performing regular tasks.
Alzheimer's disease is named after a neurologist, Dr. Alois Alzheimer. It is considered the most common cause of dementia or memory loss. The condition usually affects people above 60 years of age. In some cases, the early onset of the disease occurs when the patients are in their 30s or 40s. Women are more likely to develop Alzheimer's compared to men.
Alzheimer's disease is believed to have strong genetic etiology. But, lifestyle and environmental factors may also contribute to the disease’s development. In addition to memory loss, patients with Alzheimer's experience difficulty in reasoning and decision making. Some patients may report mood swings, social withdrawal, and delusions.
Alzheimer's disease causes the formation of plaques and tangles in the brain, resulting in the loss of cell-to-cell communication and eventual neuronal damage.
Stem cell therapy is one of the new-age therapeutic approaches being explored for the treatment of Alzheimer's.
The plaques and tangles in the brain of an Alzheimer's patient affect two essential proteins: ‘amyloid beta’ and ‘tau’. Due to the damage to brain tissues, neutrophins are produced in lesser quantities compared to a normal brain.
Stem cell treatments target to replace the damaged cells with healthy stem cells which can grow on their own, hence, creating new healthy brain cells. Because the transplant is usually autologous (using patient’s own body cells) in nature, there are fewer chances of tissue rejection or immunological reaction.
Scientists use different types of stem cells for this purpose:
Several preclinical studies in rodent species such as transgenic mice were carried out using different types of stem cells. Intra-hippocampal injection of stem cells showed mixed outcomes in different studies, ranging from the extensive migration of donor cells to the affected area and cognitive improvement in 4 to 7 weeks to no cell migration at all in some of the studies.