Stem cell therapy provides new optimism for patients with diseased, injured, or disordered brain diagnoses. Several studies are underway, and new experimental treatment options are being developed that would provide safe and noninvasive solutions to patients that are suffering from brain related issues.
Why stem cells?
Stem cells can adapt themselves to become a new type of cell. So for instance in brain injury, certain types of stem cells can “become” a brain or nerve cell. This is called differentiation. Another function of stem cells is to aid in tissue regeneration, accelerating and supporting the bodies ability to heal itself. In addition, certain types of stem cells have immunosuppressive properties, which helps prevent the body from attacking the new stem cells as a foreign agent, and also reduces inflammation.
There are many different forms of stem cells, including those taken from umbilical cord blood, those harvested from the patient’s own tissues (fat cells, bone marrow, liver, etc), those harvested from placental tissues, and those derived from early stage embryos (usually donated from fertility clinics with donor consent). Within the stem cells taken from these various sources, there is further distinction according to function.
The results of treatment can vary depending on the type of stem cell used. Because of this, studies often focus on one specific type of stem cell, and evaluate how effectively those stem cells perform.
Umbilical Cord Blood (UCB) Stem Cell Therapy for Brain Disease
A 2014 article entitled “Application of Umbilical Cord Blood Derived Stem Cells in
Diseases of the Nervous System,” published in the Journal of Stem Cell Research and Therapy, reviewed several studies (both animal and human) and their implications for using UCB stem cells in the treatment of brain conditions such as cancer, stroke, cerebral palsy, Lou Gerig’s disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and others. In each case, the results were promising, and stem cells from umbilical cord blood seemed to be the most efficient.
Why these disorders?
On their own, the brain and nervous system have a limited ability to replace damaged, diseased or defective cells, so there is a marked need for the possible regenerative properties of stem cell therapy for these conditions.
Why umbilical cord derived stem cells?
Stem cells taken from umbilical cord blood have been shown to have an impressive capacity for changing into the type of cells necessary to healing/restoration to occur. They also have immunosuppressive properties which protects stem cell’s ability to heal and reduces inflammation.
While studies have shown that stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood are more effective in many ways over other forms of stem cells for brain and nervous system, there is still a need for further study to determine how to maximize the potential of their regenerative properties.
One of the challenges in this process is a limited supply of umbilical cord blood for research use. So a greater supply of UCB is a necessity.
Another challenge is the need for greater awareness and collaboration in the science and clinical communities.
Still, the study results are impressive, and the potential is worth pursuing.
Would you like to read this study for yourself? Just follow the link.
Stem Cell Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI):
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is defined as a bump, blow or jolt to the head that disrupts normal brain function. A concussion is a mild form of TBI, and the most common. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 153 people die everyday from traumatic brain injury (over 50,000 a year).
On its own, the brain is not efficient in regenerating cells. Because of this, the field of traumatic brain injury treatment is in critical need of the benefits of stem cell therapy.
The review article, “Traumatic Brain Injury and Stem Cell: Pathophysiology and Update on Recent Treatment Modalities,” published in the August 2017 edition of Stem Cells International, explores two approaches to TBI treatment: endogenous neural cell response and exogenous stem cell therapy.
Endogenous Neural Cell Response
Although the natural regeneration of brain cells is not enough to restore full function of the brain after a TBI, neural stem cells do exist in the brain, with the potential for neurogenesis. This treatment model attempts to manipulate the already existing neural stem cells in the brain to intensify their healing properties
Exogenous Stem Cell Therapy
This treatment method utilizes stem cells introduced from an external source, and targeted at the site of injury. These stem cells can be harvested from various sources including embryos, bone marrow, and the brain itself.
Mesenchymal stem cells are also very effective and can be harvested from a variety of tissues. Because mesenchymal stem cells are so easily accessible, and have an excellent capacity for differentiation (turning into whatever type of cell is needed), they are being studied at length. They are also anti-inflammatory, and effective at diffusing problematic immune responses, making them ideal for preventing complications.
Several studies have shown improvement in TBI patients/subjects as the result of mesenchymal stem cell therapy, and it has the distinct potential to become an effective TBI treatment.
Studies also showed that endogenous stem cell therapies showed great promise, and did produce improved results in TBI patients/subjects.
In both treatment modalities it was determined that additional research was necessary to achieve safe, consistent results without long term complications.
Follow the link to read this article for yourself.
MSC Stem Cell Therapy for Traumatic Brain Injury
Another intriguing study that explored the potential for mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for TBI, was published in the February 20, 2017 edition of Frontiers in Neurology. The article, entitled “Mesenchymal Stem Cells in the Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury,” also champions MSCs for their abundance, ability to differentiate into a variety of cell types, their restorative and therapeutic potential, and their anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive qualities.
The article further discusses MSCs ability to navigate to damaged cells, delivering healing properties where they are needed most. This makes them particularly effective in TBI cases.
In addition, MSCs have shown a capacity to cross the blood brain barrier (BBB).
What is the blood brain barrier?
The blood brain barrier is a filtering mechanism of the high density capillary cells in the brain. It’s intended function is to protect the brain from fluctuations in plasma composition, neurotransmitters and other agents that might disrupt neural function. Unfortunately, it can thwart intravenous therapies. So MSCs ability to cross this barrier is a significant factor in TBI treatment.
Scientist are now experimenting with genetic modification and other manipulations of MSCs to make them even more effective in TBI cases, with promising results. Increased restoration of damaged cells and a reduction in neural cell loss are just two examples of the progress that has been made.
While the advancements that have been made are encouraging, and the potential is impressive there are still some challenges to overcome before MSCs can be utilized as a mainstream treatment option.
- While it is widely understood that MSCs do target specific tissues, how to get them to target the intended tissues/cells necessary for treatment, and the specifics of the regenerative process is still not completely understood.
- There is concern that the immunosuppressant qualities of MSCs may cause an increased risk of tumors.
MSCs offer profound potential in TBI treatment. Studies have already demonstrated their ability to improve cell restoration, reduce inflammation, and target injured cells. However there is still a vital need for additional and long term research for a more precise understanding of how to maximize MSC use in therapy, and also to determine if MSC therapy might result in long term complications such as tumors or autoimmune disorders.
Follow the link to read this article for yourself
Umbilical Cord Stem Cell Therapy for Disorders of the brain
There is a triple layered membranous sheath called the thecal sac that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. The outer layer (closest to the bone) is called the dura mater, then the arachnoid, and finally the pia mater, which is closest to the brain and spinal cord. These membranes are called the meninges. Together they form the thecal sac around the brain and spinal cord that contains the cerebrospinal fluid, which in turn provides nutrients and buoyancy to the spinal cord.
An 2014 study published in Molecular Medicine Reports took a detailed look at human umbilical cord derived mesenchymal stem cells (HUC-MSCs) administered into the thecal sac via lumbar puncture (aka spinal tap). The study– which included patients with spinal cord injuries, cerebral palsy, post-traumatic brain syndrome, post-brain infarction syndrome, spinocerebellar ataxias and motor neuron disease– wished to establish if HUC-MSC therapy would inhibit cellular death (apoptosis) of nerve cells (neurocytes), resulting in improved function.
The focus of the study, entitled “Umbilical cord-derived mesenchymal stem cell therapy for neurological disorders via inhibition of mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway-mediated apoptosis” was two fold:
- To examine technical difficulties of the procedure itself.
- To explore the difficulties and short and long‑term effects of HUC‑MSC transplantation.
- 23% of patients experienced technical difficulties with general anesthesia or difficulty with the lumbar injection/ localizing lumbar space.
- Ten of 88 of patients experienced side effects, including headache, fever, and lower back/limb pain, but these symptoms were resolved within 48 hours.
Short and Long-term effects of HUC-MSC Transplantation
- Fifty out of 88 patients showed improvement in overall function.
- The patients with cerebral palsy and post-traumatic brain syndrome demonstrated improvement in muscle tone, rigidity and spasm.
- Four bedridden patients were able to walk with the help of a walker after therapy.
- Animal testing verified that nerve cell death had been effectively inhibited as the result of HUC-MSC therapy.
- Umbilical cord derived stem cells were deemed superior to MSC stem cells taken from other sources, as they can be extracted without any difficulty to the patient, and they have an exceptional capacity to differentiate (turn into whatever type of cell is needed for repair). In addition, they do not require immunosuppression.
- Although there were some challenges with anesthesia and localizing lumbar space, the study maintained that lumbar puncture was the preferred method of administration as it was least invasive to the patient.
- UC-MSCs cell transplantation was successful in inhibiting apoptosis, and patients demonstrated an improvement in function as a result.
- More research is recommended to perfect this treatment methodology, and establish consistent outcomes.
Follow this link to read the study results for yourself. https://www.spandidos-publications.com/10.3892/mmr.2014.2985