Parkinson’s disease (PD) also known as idiopathic or primary parkinsonism, hypokinetic rigid syndrome (HRS), or paralysis agitans is a neurodegenerative brain disorder of the central nervous system (CNS). PD progresses slowly in most people, taking years for symptoms to develop and worsen. The motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease result from the death of dopamine-generating cells in the substantia nigra, a region of the midbrain; the cause of this cell death is unknown. Dopamine is a chemical that relays messages between the substantia nigra and other parts of the brain to control movements of the human body. Dopamine helps humans to have smooth, coordinated muscle movements. When approximately 60 to 80% of the dopamine-producing cells are damaged, and do not produce enough dopamine, the motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease appear. PD itself is not fatal, but complications from the disease are serious. The Center for Disease Control rated complications from PD as the 14th top cause of death in the United States. [1] There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s. Stem cell transplantation shows great potential for the management of Parkinson’s disease.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS

Parkinson’s disease symptoms and signs may vary from person to person. Symptoms often begin on one side of your body and usually remain worse on that side, even after symptoms begin to affect both sides. Parkinson’s disease affects movement, producing motor symptoms. Non-motor symptoms, which include autonomic dysfunction, neuropsychiatric problems (mood, cognition, behavior or thought alterations), and sensory and sleep difficulties, are also common. Parkinson’s signs and symptoms may include: [2]:

  • Tremor, or shaking, usually begins in a limb, often your hands or fingers. One characteristic of PD is a tremor of your hand when it is relaxed.
  • Slowed movement (bradykinesia). PD may reduce ability to move and slow movement, making simple tasks quite difficult. A person’s stride may be reduced and they may drag their feet as they try to walk.
  • Rigid Muscles. Muscle stiffness may occur in any part of the body and limit range of motion.
  • Impaired posture and balance. Posture may become stooped and balance problems can occur.
  • Speech changes. People suffering from PD may speak softly, quickly, slur, or hesitate before talking. Speech can become monotone, lacking usual inflections.

TRADITIONAL MANAGEMENT

While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease treatments aim to restore the proper balance of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine and dopamine by increasing dopamine levels. Symptoms of PD can often be controlled for years with medication. [3]

  • Levodopa – Is the most prescribed drug. The body metabolizes it to produce dopamine. However, this is ineffective, because the brain blocks it from being used by the body. To suppress nausea and other side effects the drug is often given in conjunction with a separate drug called carbidopa.
  • COMT inhibitors – Tolcapone (Tasmar) and entacpone (Comtan) are drugs taken with levodopa. They prolong symptom relief of the drug by blocking the action of an enzyme that breaks down levodopa.
  • MAO-B inhibitors – Also block the action of an enzyme that breaks down dopamine. They may be taken alone early in PD or with other drugs as the disease progresses.
  • Dopamine agonists – are dopamine-like drugs that directly imitate dopamine’s activity in the brain.

It is very important to maintain a daily exercise program and to remain socially active. In many Parkinson’s patients, a weakening of social ties because of physical difficulties can lead to depression. The American Parkinson Disease Association can provide information about support groups and exercise classes in your area valuable sources for companionship.

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STEM CELL THERAPY FOR PARKINSON’S DISEASE

Autologous stem cells have the ability to self-renew, or divide, to replenish dying tissue of specialized cell types. They can be considered our own built-in repair systems that regenerate cells damaged by disease, injury, and every day wear-and-tear. Once adult stem cells are administered to the body, they are thought to respond to inflammatory signals secreted by damaged cells. Ultimately, adult stem cells appear to replenish these damaged cells.

In adult stem cell therapy trials for Parkinson’s disease, adult stem cells are collected, enriched, and administered in order to replace the dying nerve cells in the brain. This stem cell management is thought to target the dying neurons and to help with the creation of new dopamine producing neurons. In addition, stem cells are thought to release natural chemicals called cytokines which can induce differentiation of the stem cells into dopamine producing neurons which are important in Parkinson’s. These advancements in the management of Parkinson’s disease are believed to work to regenerate missing or damaged tissue that the body would not ordinarily regrow. [4] [5] [6]

Suggested Reading:

  1. What is Parkinson’s Disease? National Parkinson Foundation.
  2. Parkinson’s Disease. Mayo Clinic.
  3. Parkinson’s Disease Treatment Options. WebMd. .
  4. Masaaki Kitada and Mari Dezawa, “Parkinson’s Disease and Mesenchymal Stem Cells: Potential for Cell-Based Therapy,” Parkinson’s Disease, vol. 2012, Article ID 873706, 9 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/873706
  5. Parkinsonism: Alternative Treatments. The MSA Coalition. 
  6. Giordano R, Canesi M, Isalberti M, et al. Autologous mesenchymal stem cell therapy for progressive supranuclear palsy: translation into a phase I controlled, randomized clinical study. Journal of Translational Medicine. 2014;12:14. doi:10.1186/1479-5876-12-14.

Open-labeled study of unilateral autologous bone-marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell transplantation in Parkinson’s disease.

Venkataramana NK, Kumar SK, Balaraju S, Radhakrishnan RC, Bansal A, Dixit A, Rao DK, Das M, Jan M, Gupta PK, Totey SM.

Transl Res. 2010 Feb;155(2):62-70. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2009.07.006.

Treating non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease with transplantation of stem cells.

Pantcheva P, Reyes S, Hoover J, Kaelber S, Borlongan CV.

Expert Rev Neurother. 2015 Oct;15(10):1231-40. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2015.1091727. Review.

Concise Review: Using Stem Cells to Prevent the Progression of Myopia-A Concept.

Janowski M, Bulte JW, Handa JT, Rini D, Walczak P.

Stem Cells. 2015 Jul;33(7):2104-13. doi: 10.1002/stem.1984. Review.

Therapeutic potential of human adipose-derived stem cells in neurological disorders.

Chang KA, Lee JH, Suh YH.

J Pharmacol Sci. 2014;126(4):293-301. doi: 10.1254/jphs.14R10CP. Review.

Mesenchymal stem cells: potential in treatment of neurodegenerative diseases.

Tanna T, Sachan V.

Curr Stem Cell Res Ther. 2014;9(6):513-21. Review.

Stem cell grafting in parkinsonism–why, how and when.

de Munter JP, Melamed E, Wolters ECh.

Parkinsonism Relat Disord. 2014 Jan;20 Suppl 1:S150-3. doi: 10.1016/S1353-8020(13)70036-1. Review.

Mesenchymal stem cells and neuroregeneration in Parkinson’s disease.

Glavaski-Joksimovic A, Bohn MC.

Exp Neurol. 2013 Sep;247:25-38. doi: 10.1016/j.expneurol.2013.03.016. Review.

Disclaimer:
Actual results may vary. The statements are not intended to imply that the results would be the same or similar for each patient. Each patient is unique and no particular result or outcome can be predicted or guaranteed. The statements in this website have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Some of these procedures may be considered experimental. These procedures are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. The use of stem cells is not approved by the Food and Drug Administration to combat aging or to prevent, treat, cure or mitigate any disease or medical condition mentioned, cited or described in this website. The science of treatment with stem cells is in its early stages and stem cell treatments are not considered to be the standard of care for any medical condition, ailment, illness or disease. There could be significant and unknown risks associated with stem cell treatments, as long-term studies have not been performed.