Around 50 million people live with dementia, with an estimated global cost of care being $818 billion US dollars. Dementia is a fatal clinical disorder characterised by amnesia, progressive cognitive impairment, disorientation, behavioral disturbances and loss of normal daily function. Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type of dementia.
The majority of Alzheimer’s diseases are sporadic, with established risk factors such as cardiovascular disease, low education, depression and the apolipoprotein-E4 gene.
4 core features have been identified in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease:
- Neurofibrillary tangles.
- Beta amyloid plaques.Activated microglia (immune cells in the central nervous system).Mass neuronal and synaptic loss.
Different studies of stem cell transplantation performed in murine models have shown modulation of inflammation and microglia immune response, anti-amyloidogenic properties and regeneration of depleted neural networks after the administration of stem cells from different sources like: human umbilical cord Wharton’s jelly-derived mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) and umbilical cord blood-derived MSC, bone marrow-derived MSC and neural stem cell.
Mesenchymal stem cells are among the most frequently studied due to their accessibility and broad range of cell types that they are able to generate. In these models their transplantation showed inhibition of Aβ related cell death, reduction of Aβ deposits and plaque formation, stimulation of neurogenesis and neuronal differentiation.
Stem cell therapy for the treatment of dementia has an enormous potential that remains under development. There are a lot of studies that have demonstrated their potential therapeutic properties but the majority of studies are in murine models. The translation between animal studies to human trials continues under study.
Source: Tomas Duncan, Michael Valenzuela. Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and stem cell therapy. Stem Cell Research & Therapy. 2017. 8:111.