Biomedical

Promising stem cell treatments for brain diseases.

Stem cells have shown promising results in many studies. While we still try to figure out the best method for treating diseases with stem cells, even imperfect methods, yield great results.

A recent study investigated whether neural stem/progenitor cells, could engraft in aged mice and help alleviate Parkinson’s disease symptoms. When in an aged brain astrocytes and microglia deteriorate and lose their function, newly introduced neural stem cells can engraft (in theory) and replace damaged cells with new ones.

As we have seen in many studies, multipotent stem cells while having the ability to differentiate into many types of cells, when introduced into the body, they tend to float around and never engraft. In some cases they even cause tumours. But studies that have used more specialised stem cells have had greater results. Apparently, multipotent stem cells in an organism can be beneficial, by reducing inflammation and signal other cells to repair themselves, but only neural stem cells can really engraft in a brain and stay there for long enough to replace damaged tissue.

One key thing newer studies demonstrate over older ones, is that methodology and protocols matter a lot with stem cells. The environment that the cells live in, and all the conditions they go through, can determine their ability to engraft. Stem cell sources are limited. Bone marrow and cord blood undergo processing that may damage the stem cells, and storage doesn’t help them survive better either. So, it is crucial to make sure that all the steps from sourcing to transplantation are carefully planned. If so, there are much better chances in achieving good results and potentially treating diseases.

An increasingly ageing population faces a lot of issues and most come from inflammation. Stem cells are a great solution for this and could help us live longer and healthier. Perfecting all the steps from sourcing to transplantations is challenging but it is something worth pursuing.

Sources: Neural Stem Cell Grafts Promote Astroglia‐driven Neurorestoration in the Aged Parkin‐sonian Brain via Wnt/β‐catenin Signalling

Image: https://www.flickr.com/photos/64860478@N05/33272651103

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