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Stem Cells and Neurodegenerative Diseases

2014 Edition, March 17, 2014

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Active, Most Current

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ISBN: 978-1-4822-1073-6
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Product Details:

  • Revision: 2014 Edition, March 17, 2014
  • Published Date: March 17, 2014
  • Status: Active, Most Current
  • Document Language: English
  • Published By: CRC Press (CRC)
  • Page Count: 245
  • ANSI Approved: No
  • DoD Adopted: No

Description / Abstract:


In the last decade, research on embryonic and adult stem cells has greatly expanded as the interest in their use in regenerative medicine continues to grow. Pluripotent stem cells can give rise to over 200 different cell types and therefore present a great opportunity for new therapeutic approaches. In addition, the use of adult stem cells and reprogrammed somatic cells (such as inducible pluripotent stem cells; iPSCs) may provide patient-specifi c treatments, while circumventing the ethical concerns surrounding the use of embryonic stem cells.

Results from numerous experimental studies as well as growing evidence from early clinical research indicate that stem cell therapy has signifi cant potential for improving the quality of life for patients with a variety of neurological disorders, including spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases). Pre-clinical investigations and some of the new clinical studies suggest that stem cell transplantationcan reduce cell death and promote neuroprotection after spinal cord injury or stroke by providing trophic support and, as suggested from the results of some trials, by replacing lost cells and remyelinatingaxons in the damaged brain. At the very least, it appears that stem celltransplantscan create a favorable environment in the brain that is capable of promoting neuroplasticity, neuronal regeneration, or a supportive milieu that translates into reductions in neuropathology and amelioration of functional defi cits. In order to develop a better understanding of how transplantation of stem cells orchestrate their benefi cial effects so that their use can be optimized, it is important to study both their intrinsic qualities as well as their interactions within the host environment. Indeed, insights into the importance of specialized stem cell niches that allow for the ideal amount of plasticity can help in determining the optimal number of cells to transplant, as well as critical factors affecting fate decision, migration and differentiation. Determining what the ideal balance between stem cells and their progenitors should be within specifi c transplant areas is critical for ensuring that the damaged brain receives the correct type and number of neuronal and glial cells for reducing cell death, replacing lost neurons, or correcting demyelinating conditions, such as in multiple sclerosis. This balance is also critical in future efforts for treating disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease, in which adult neurogenesis is altered through direct and indirect mechanisms, causing a microenvironmental imbalance within the brain, including the sub-ventricular stem cell niche.

In addition, there is strong evidence from animal studies that supports the use of stem cell therapies in cases of vascular network disruption (such as ischemic stroke). However, as is the case with observed benefi ts in many neuronal disorders, the mechanisms whereby stem cell transplants exert their ameliorative effects are not fully understood. Clearly, additional research is needed before the pervasive use of stem cell transplant strategies is undertaken to treat many of the disorders or for the repair of damaged brain tissue in humans can be safely pursued.

With regards to multipotent stem cells, it is now well documented that neural, and especially mesenchymal stem cells (when transplanted into the brain) display immunosuppressive properties which are particularly advantageous for treating the damaged brain, given that almost all types of brain damage, including traumatic brain injury, stroke, and even most neurodegenerative disorders, are accompanied by signifi cant infl ammation. Thus, controlling the intensity of this immune response is one of the critical keys to reinstate some of the lost function following brain damage. Research into how some stem cells avoid immunosurveillance mayprovide new insights into how one might maximizetherapeutic their therapeutic potential, perhaps even to the extent of expanding applications in transplantation of xenogeneic neurons for treating brain damage.

Another research direction of intense interest is the role that both endogenous and transplanted stem cells may be playing in formation of brain tumors. In order to better understand how neural stem cells interact with brain cancers, such as gliomas, new studies on brain tumor development are being conducted. Recent work in this area suggests that the cancer stem cell phenotype is interrelated with, and participates in, tumor recurrence and drug resistance. Therefore, a better understanding of how both normal stem cells and cancer stem cells function and interact is required before stem cell therapy can be used to safely treat brain tumors in humans.

Recently, the generation of iPSCs has opened a new frontier in stem cell therapy by allowing the creation of cell models for genetic disordersof the nervous system that provides an enormously useful to explore the mechanisms underlying such diseases. The iPSCs have the potential to allow for targeted autologous cell transplantation that is not only patientspecifi c, but may provide for more extensive differentiation into the type of neurons or glial cells that are needed than what may be possible with MSCs for exemple. Although most of the initial work with iPSCs are as screens for potential pharmacological treatments of various diseases, primarily because of initial concerns that they readily produce tumors when transplanted into the brain, more recent work suggests that these cells have enormous potential for possible cell replacement therapies.

In conclusion, stem cell therapies offer significant hope for the millions of people around the world who are suffering from some type of neurological disorder. Estimates are that disease and damage to the nervous system will soon affect about one-third of the world's population. To address this growing need, more effi cient interactions between researchers and clinicians, as well as between scientists, healthcare providers, and policymakers must be achieved. In addition, better communication between scientists, healthcare providers, and policymakers and the general public will be needed if regenerative medicine using stem cell transplantation is to become a viable treatment for the growing number of patients suffering from brain damage or neurodegenerative disorders.

The editors and authors of this book have invested a great deal of their time to move stem cell therapies forward. We fi rmly believe that stem cell therapies have signifi cant potential to help those who need it most. We hope that the information provided in this book will be of use for fellow scientists, policymakers, and those in the general public who want to learn more about the exciting new developments in stem cell therapies.