Neurodegenerative conditions are, at this point, diseases that cannot be treated, and that progress until they finally claim the lives of their victims. They include such awful disorders as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, whose effects on the human brain can, at this point, only be postponed and alleviated, but not prevented or treated. Now, a new type of treatment, relying heavily on the power of stem cells, may offer a ray of hope to people suffering from these diseases.
In lab tests, researchers injected stem cells into the brain of animal models. The cells were harvested from the animals’ own spinal cords, and only the mesenchymal variety was used. Once inside, the cells proved to be able to identify the damaged neural tissue, move to it, and then started acting locally to repair the damage. While the experts recognize the fact that further studies to test the effects of this treatment are still in order, they are happy to announce that the stem cells managed to halt neural deterioration, and also that they showed signs of trying to revert the affected tissue back to its original function.
“By monitoring the motion of these cells, you get information about how viable they are, and how they can benefit the tissue. We have been able to prove that these stem cells travel within the brain, and only travel where they are needed. They read the chemical signaling of the tissue, which indicate[s] areas of stress. And then they go and try to repair the situation,” Tel Aviv university School of Chemistry Professor Dr. Yoram Cohen explains. He has been the leader of the team that made the discovery, and also an author of a paper detailing the finds, published in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cells.
After injecting the animals with the cells, the team watched their effects via Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), where the stem cells appeared as little, black dots. Each of the cells was individually tagged with iron oxide nanoparticles, so as to show up on the monitors. “Cells that go toward a certain position that needs to be rescued are the best indirect proof that they are live and viable. If they can migrate towards the target, they are alive and can read chemical signaling,” Cohen says, quoted by e! Science News.