What is Parkinson’s Disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive neurological disease that affects nerve cells (neurons) in an area of the brain known as the substantia nigra. When healthy, these cells normally produce dopamine, a chemical (neurotransmitter) which transmits signals between areas in the brain. This chemical coordinates smooth and balanced muscle movement. Parkinson’s disease causes these nerve cells to die, and as a result, body movements are affected. This results in the following general symptoms characteristic of Parkinson’s Disease:
- Primary Motor Symptoms (Resting Tremor, Bradykinesia, Rigidity, Postural Instability)
- Secondary Motor Symptoms (Freezing, Micrographia, Mask-like Expression, Unwanted Accelerations)
- Nonmotor Symptoms (Loss of Sense of Smell, Constipation, Sleep Disorders, Mood Disorders, Orthostatic Hypotension )
Can Stem Cell Studies help patients with Parkinson’s Disease?
Today, new treatments and advances in research are giving new hope to people affected by this disease. StemGenex is offering access to Multiple Sclerosis clinical studies registered through The National Institutes of Health at www.clinicaltrials.gov/stemgenex. These Parkinson’s Stem Cell Clinical Studies are being studied for their efficacy in improving the complications in patients with Parkinson’s disease, through the use of stem cells. These procedures may help patients who don’t respond to typical drug treatment.
Frequently Asked Stem Cell Parkinson's Disease Questions
- What is Parkinson's Disease?
Parkinson's disease occurs when there is a problem with certain nerve cells in the brain. The disease affects the way you move.
Normally, these types of nerve cells make an important chemical called dopamine. Dopamine sends signals to the part of your brain that controls movement. It lets your muscles move smoothly and do what you want them to do. When you have Parkinson’s, these nerve cells break down. Then you no longer have enough dopamine, and you have trouble moving the way you want to.
Parkinson’s is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. But usually this happens slowly, over a period of many years. And there are good treatments that can help you live a full life.
- What are some Parkinson's Facts:
The Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson's provides the following facts about Parkinson's Disease:
- Parkinson's Disease affects one in 100 people over age 60
- Lesser known symptoms of Parkinson's include : depression, apathy, fatigue, and dementia
- Parkinson's is caused by the death of Dopamine cells. Nearly 60% to 80% of these cells are already lost by the time motor symptoms appear
- The exact cause of Parkinson's is unknown, but, both genetics and enviroment are causes.
- Today, an estimated one million people in the united States and more than five million people in the world are living with Parkinson's Disease
- 3 out of 5 Americans will suffer from a nervous-system disease such as Parkinson's or Alzheimer's
- Reaserchers are investigating potential early symptoms, such as impaired sense of smell, certain sleep disorders, constipation and unusual fatigue
- Todays best Parkinson's drug was discovered in 1967
- Dyskinesia is often mistaken for a symptom of Parkinson's disease, but it actually is a side effect of Parkinson's Treatment. Many patients consider Dyskinesia to be as dibilitating as the disease
- What happens to the body of people suffering from Parkinson's?
The diagnosis of PD depends upon the presence of one or more of the four most common motor symptoms of the disease.
- Primary Motor Symptoms
- Resting Tremor: - Slight tremor (shaking or oscillating movement) in the hand or foot on one side of the body, or in the jaw or face and usually appears when a person's muscles are relaxed, or at rest (not performing an action).
- Bradykinesia: - Bradykinesia (slow movement) A general reduction of spontaneous movement, which can give the appearance of abnormal stillness and a decrease in facial expressivity. Causes difficulty with repetitive movements and performing everyday functions, such as buttoning a shirt, cutting food or brushing teeth, walking with short, shuffling steps, affect on ones speech; quieter and less distinct, drooling and excess saliva result from reduced swallowing movements.
- Rigidity: - Rigidity causes stiffness and inflexibility of the limbs, neck and trunk. The muscle tone of an affected limb is always stiff and does not relax, sometimes contributing to a decreased range of motion. Rigidity can be uncomfortable or even painful and inhibits the swinging of arms when walking.
- Postural Instability: - Postural Instability (a tendency to be unstable when standing upright) is caused by uncontrollable reflexes needed for maintaining an upright posture that can cause particular difficulty when pivoting or making turns or quick movements. It can also cause retropulsion (a dangerous tendency to sway backwards when rising from a chair, standing or turning).
- Secondary Motor Symptoms
- Freezing - Freezing of gait; hesitation before stepping forward is a manifestations of akinesia (poverty of spontaneous movement). The feeling as if their feet are glued to the floor can increase a person’s risk of falling forward.
- Micrographia - Micrographia (shrinkage in handwriting). This occurs as a result of bradykinesia (slow movement) and hypokinesia (which refer to the fact that, in addition to being slow, the movements are also smaller than desired).
- Mask-like Expression - Face appearing less expressive than usual is a manifestations of akinesia (poverty of spontaneous movement [e.g. in facial expression]).
- Unwanted Accelerations - Unwanted Acceleration is the experience of movements that are too quick causing tachyphemia (excessively fast speech) and festination (an uncontrollable acceleration in gait).
- Stooped posture - A tendency to lean forward.
- Dystonia - A neurological movement disorder, in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements or abnormal postures.
- Impaired fine motor dexterity and motor coordination - Encompass the abilities required to control the smaller muscles of the body for writing, playing an instrument, artistic expression, and craft work.
- Impaired gross motor coordination - Abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body for walking, running, sitting, crawling, and other activities.
- Speech problems - Such as softness of voice or slurred speech caused by lack of muscle control.
- Difficulty swallowing - Dysphagia.
- Sexual dysfunction - Difficulty experienced during sexual activity, including physical pleasure, desire, preference, arousal or orgasm.
- Cramping - Neural sensations caused by muscle contraction or overshortening.
- Drooling - Sialorrhea (the flow of saliva outside the mouth).
- Akinesia - Poverty of spontaneous movement.
- Hypokinesia - Movements that are slow as well as smaller than desired.
- Nonmotor Symptoms - Many researchers believe that nonmotor symptoms may precede motor symptoms — and a Parkinson’s diagnosis — by years. The most recognizable early symptoms include:
- Anosmia - loss of sense of smell
- Dyschezia - constipation
- REM behavior disorder - parasomnia, a sleep disorder
- Mood disorders - Depression, bipolar disorder, dysthymic disorder and cyclothymic disorder.
- Orthostatic hypotension - Sudden fall in blood pressure upon standing
- Other Nonmotor Symptoms
- Excessive saliva
- Weight loss
- Weight gain
- Vision problems
- Dental problems
- Fear and anxiety
- Skin problems
- Cognitive issues
- Sleep disturbances
- Bladder problems
- Sexual problems
- Primary Motor Symptoms
- What are stem cells?
Stem cells are unprogrammed cells in the human body that can be described as "shape shifters." These cells have the ability to change or “differentiate” into other types of cells. Stem cells are at the center of a new field of science called regenerative medicine. Because stem cells can become bone, muscle, cartilage and other specialized types of cells, they have the potential to treat many diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, Diabetes and more.
- What are the different types of stem cells?
StemGenex offers stem cell therapy using Adult stem cells only. There are four known types of stem cells:
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
The use of adult stem cells in research and therapy is not as controversial as the use of embryonic stem cells, because the production of adult stem cells does not require the destruction of an embryo. Additionally, in instances where adult stem cells are obtained from the intended recipient, the risk of rejection is essentially non-existent. Consequently, more US government funding is being provided for adult stem cell research. This is why StemGenex offers stem cell studies using Adult stem cells only.
- Embryonic Stem Cells - derived from embryos
These cells require specific signals to differentiate to the desired cell type. If they are simply injected directly, they will differentiate into many different types of cells, resulting in a tumor derived from this abnormal pluripotent cell development (a teratoma). The directed differentiation of ES cells and avoidance of transplant rejection are just two of the hurdles that ES cell researchers still face. StemGenex does not use embryonic stem cells.
- Fetal Stem Cells - derived from aborted fetuses
Have developed further than embryonic stem cells and are a little more specialized – their options are slightly more limited. However, they can still produce most types of cell in the body. StemGenex does not use fetal stem cells.
- Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs) - from some parts of the human body
These stem cells are engineered from older, fully specialized cells – for example, skin cells, which are limited naturally to being only skin cells. Scientists encourage these limited cells to act like embryonic stem cells again, with the ability to become any type of human cell. This is a complex technique that has only recently been developed and is the subject of much ongoing research. StemGenex does not use induced pluripotent stem cells.
- Adult Stem Cells - derived from the adult human body
- What is a stem cell therapy?
Stem cell therapy is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury. Many medical researchers believe that stem cell treatments have the potential to change the face of human disease and alleviate suffering. The ability of stem cells to self-renew and give rise to subsequent generations with variable degrees of differentiation capacities, offers significant potential for generation of tissues that can potentially replace diseases and damaged areas in the body, with minimal risk of rejection and side effects.
- How could stem cells help in Parkinson's Disease?
Currently, Parkinson’s Disease is treated with deep brain stimulation surgical procedures and medications like Carbidopa-levodopa, Dopamine agonists, MAO B inhibitors, Catechol O-methyltransferase (COMT) inhibitors, Anticholinergics and Amantadine. Despite inducing temporary improvement, these approaches possess long-term adverse effects due to non-specific inhibition of neural responses. Additionally, current treatments do not address the issue of damage that has already occurred to the brain.
StemGenex is currently studying the effect of adult stem cell therapy on patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Because the majority of complications in Parkinson’s patients are related to the failure of the dopamine neuron to do its job, stem cell therapy is being studied to directly target these neurons. The hope is that, by delivering adult stem cells directly to the brain they can differentiate into dopamine producing neurons resulting in diminished symptoms.
- How are stem cells administered for Parkinson’s Disease?
StemGenex is studying potential ways to directly target the conditions and complications themselves. These studies consist of multiple ways to deliver the highest amount of activated stem cells to the areas patients need them most. When stem cells are studied through StemGenex, as potential therapy for Parkinson’s, there are multiple ways they can be administered:
- Full body IV – directed into the vein
- Intra Nasal – administration to access a highly vascular pathway of the nose to encourage more stem cells to travel past the blood brain barrier
- Direct site injections – injected directly into the site that needs repair, i.e., muscles and tendons
- Should we be researching stem cells?
Yes. Scientists around the world believe there is enough evidence to suggest that stem cells hold real potential as a therapy for Parkinson’s Disease. This evidence comes from a multitude of early clinical studies. They believe that it is now time for a concerted effort in stem cell research and an international effort to support clinical studies of stem cells for Parkinson’s Disease.
- Are stem cells an FDA approved therapy for Parkinson’s Disease?
No. There are currently no FDA approved stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s Disease. All stem cell therapies for Parkinson’s Disease are currently ‘unproven’, ‘experimental’ therapies. This means that the FDA does not know whether stem cells are effective for people with Parkinson’s Disease. The only way to determine the effectiveness of stem cell therapy is through the type of clinical studies and trials which are currently being conducted in the US.
- How effective might stem cells be?
One of the goals of StemGenex, through our stem cell studies, is to understand what a particular stem cell therapy might be able to achieve. For example, does it have the potential for slowing the disease's progression, replacing damaged cells and memories, or both? With this goal in mind, StemGenex continues to study these diseases and the full effect of stem cell therapy on each disease. Anecdotally, these results have been overwhelmingly positive but there is more that needs to be done to determine the exact effectiveness of these therapies.
- If I received a stem cell transplant, how long would it take to work?
After stem cells have been administered into someone’s body they have to make their way to the correct place (e.g. area of damage) and then have their desired effect. This process takes time and although it is difficult to predict exactly how long, it is likely that it will take several weeks or months on average to see the full desired effect.
- Could a stem cell therapy be repeated?
Yes, a stem cell therapy may be repeated. Current studies indicate the strong possibility of a cumulative effect from multiple stem cell therapies a patient received for their condition. Long-term studies will attempt to better understand this in detail.
- Could a stem cell therapy be used at the same time as other therapies?
We don’t know yet. This will not be studied in early clinical trials, as this would make it very difficult to measure the true effects of the stem cell therapy. However, a combination therapy may be effective for Parkinson’s Disease and is likely to be studied in the future.