Alzheimer's treatment: Stem cell transplant shows promise in mice

Evan Walker
Evan Walker TheMediTary.Com |
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Research in mice suggests that stem cell transplantation may help treat the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease by reducing toxic plaque build-up in the brain. Image credit: kali9/Getty Images.
  • About 55 million people globally have Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias.
  • As scientists expect that number to continue to grow each year, there has been much focus on developing new treatments for the condition.
  • Researchers from UC San Diego School of Medicine have found a hematopoietic stem cell transplant can protect against memory loss, neuroinflammation, and beta-amyloid build-up in an Alzheimer’s mouse model.

With about 55 million people around the world living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias— and that number expected to grow in the next few years — there is no wonder there are consistently new studies examining possible treatments for this particular type of dementia.

In the latest research, a team from UC San Diego School of Medicine has found a specific type of stem cell transplant can protect against memory loss, Health">neuroinflammation, and Health">beta-amyloid build-up in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

This study was recently published in the journal Cell Reports.

After reviewing this study, Dr. Karen D. Sullivan, a board-certified neuropsychologist and owner of I CARE FOR YOUR BRAIN of Pinehurst, NC, not involved in the research told Medical News Today her first reaction was one of hope.

“Although this is just a first step as a proof-of-concept study and being done in a mouse model, the science is solid and the results are promising especially as they reported both structural and functional brain changes,” she explained.

“As the authors state, Alzheimer’s disease is very complex with multiple disease pathways implicated, but I am optimistic that this work will grow in significance once it is tested in higher-order animals,” Dr. Sullivan added.

Dr. Santosh Kesari, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, CA, and regional medical director for the Research Clinical Institute of Providence Southern California, also not involved in the study, talked to MNT about the significance of the reduction in beta-amyloid plaques.

“Beta-amyloid is one of the problems that is linked to Alzheimer’s,” he explained. “There’s [a] build-up of this plaque and the brain can’t clear it, or the microglia and other cells in the brain cannot clear this plaque that builds up and that creates more inflammation. And so the microglia trying to clear up the plaque are becoming inflamed and that causes more damage than the plaque itself.”

“So the fact that the transplant reduces the plaque burden, as well as inflammation, means that it improves neurological function in these mice,” Dr. Kesari continued.

“It really strengthened the relationship [between] inflammation and its role in dementia and many other neurological disorders. Inflammation is an underlying issue that continues to create problems over time, even in stroke, multiple sclerosis, ALS, and other diseases. It’s the inflammation that’s creating as much problem as the initial cause of the problem.”

– Dr. Santosh Kesari

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