Famous people like actor Michael J. Fox, Evangelist Billy Graham, and boxer Muhammad Ali are just some people who are known to have Parkinson’s disease. In recent years and in the U.S. alone, it is estimated that 1 million people suffer from this type of progressive condition that affects the brain, nerves and body movement. Michael J. Fox himself has been an active advocate in educating people and financing research to find a cure for this disease. With the recent scientific developments, one of the most promising treatments for this disease is the stem cell treatment.
The exact cause or causes of why a person develops this condition is still unknown. Most scientists and researchers will tell you that the loss of nerve cells in the brain that are responsible for the production of dopamine is the link to this illness. Genetics and other environmental factors like virus and toxic substance may be additional factors that contribute to the decline of dopamine production in the brain which then causes it to send the wrong signals to the body.
Individuals suffering from Parkinson’s disease have problems with the motor movement and experience tremors in the hands, feet and face; difficulties in balancing the body, swallowing of food and bowel movement are also symptoms of this condition. Eventually the patient will face memory and concentration difficulties, depression and unstable mood swings.
However, all is not lost for patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Nowadays, there are several effective treatments for this condition; one of which is the stem cell therapy. Although not yet a routine clinical procedure, it possesses so much possibility that more medical companies and researchers are pooling their resources and time to search for a cure.
Basically, the process or method of the therapy is to replace the dead cells in the brain with other identical cells; in some cases, stem cells gathered from a newborn’s healthy placenta. After it goes through several procedures, these stem cells will be injected under the skin and monitored closely. The human body generally accepts the presence of these replacement cells within a few hours, if not a day and a significant improvement and slowing down of the progression of the disease will be noticed.
According to Dr. Omar Gonzales, who is the director and founder of Integra Medical Center, 80% of the total number of patients treated with stem cell therapy have seen improvements in their conditions. Patients revert back to their normal, and in this case, pre-Parkinson’s self. There is more balance, coordination and improved gait, improvement in mental clarity and a decrease in stiffness and rigidity.
However, more studies are required on how to continually produce this type of cell needed to enhance the production of dopamine. So, what kind of stem cells will work best? Since there are so many types of stem cells in a human body like placenta, blood, bone marrow, and retinal or skin cells, the question now becomes which of these stem cells will work best in treating certain disorders?
Another challenge posed for researchers is on how to continually come up with a source of cells that will be developed, cultivated and maintained in laboratories for them to become dopamine neurons. The moment answers to these questions are found, it is more likely that this treatment will become a major impact in addressing this neurodegenerative disorder.
Modern innovation and continuous research are being conducted on how stem cell therapy can be more effective and stable in treating Parkinson’s disease. Because of the positive outcome of this treatment, more patients suffering this disease can now face the future without fear.