Parkinson’s disease is a disease of the nervous system that can make daily living very difficult. It makes normal movement very difficult, which can affect activities as simple as brushing your teeth or buttoning up a shirt.
There’s no cure for Parkinson’s disease, and treatments can only slow down its progress or try to treat the symptoms. This is what leads many to consider effective alternatives like stem cell transplant for Parkinson’s disease. This article will discuss this in detail.
What is Parkinson’s disease (PD)?
Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second most prevalent disease after Alzheimer’s among progressive disorders that harm the nervous system. It affects mostly elderly patients (1% of people age 60+ and 2-3% age 75+). About 5% of cases are caused by genetically inherited problems, but it is not clear what causes the remaining 95% of cases.
There are treatments available for this disease that can improve the symptoms patients experience, as well as improve their functioning and quality of life, but there’s no way to cure the disease. At the same time, the burden of PD in terms of disability and death is increasing quicker than any other nervous system disease, which exemplifies how serious this condition is .
What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s is characterized by both motor symptoms and non-motor signs and symptoms, though the motor symptoms are what the disease is most known for. Most of these symptoms can have a significant negative impact on a person’s quality of life.
Motor symptoms seen in PD include the following:
- Slowed movements;
- Muscle stiffness;
- Balance and posture problems;
- Loss of automatic movements, such as blinking, swallowing saliva, and swinging arms when walking;
- Difficulties with speech;
- Difficulties with writing.
Among the non-motor signs and symptoms of Parkinson’s are:
- Anhedonia (reduced interest in previously enjoyable activities);
- Loss of smell;
- Urinary problems;
- Sleep disorders;
- Cognitive impairment;
- Erectile dysfunction.
What causes Parkinson’s disease?
Symptoms of the disease include the loss of a large number of neurons in the area of the brain called the substantia nigra. These neurons produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that provides signal transduction to the nerve cells, so when these neurons die, there is a deficiency of dopamine. However, the exact cause of this neuronal death is not known.
At the same time, nerve cells that produce norepinephrine also begin to die and this is thought to be the cause of the non-motor symptoms that are seen in patients with PD.
Another identifying feature of this disorder is the emergence of clumps (Lewy bodies) in the brain formed by the protein alpha-synuclein [2, 3].
The current belief is that since only a few cases of PD are hereditary, it is majorly a combination of genetic and environmental conditions that bring about this condition.
How stem cell therapy can help treat Parkinson’s disease
Stem cell research Parkinson’s scientists are striving to find treatment for this neurological disorder because the current standard therapy can neither prevent neuronal death nor slow or stop its progression; it is aimed, instead, at maintaining a constant level of dopamine stimulation. Existing medications can improve a patient’s symptoms, but they cannot combat the disease and come with significant disadvantages and side effects (such as wearing off over time, involuntary movements and dyskinesia, impulsive and compulsive behavior, nausea and vomiting, hallucinations and delusions, heart problems, etc.).
Alternative stem cell therapy approaches have been studied over the past 30-40 years. The results of stem cell therapy with multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) both on animal models and in human stem cell research Parkinson’s disease confirm that such approaches may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and reduce symptoms, as well as lower adverse effects of existing medications .
Embryonic stem cells Parkinson’s disease treatment is considered an effective option, but ethical concerns around sourcing the necessary cells make it a problematic option . Studies of efficacy and the safety of autologous or donor MSCs when implanted into specific regions of the brain have been conducted since 2009. About half of the patients showed a positive response within the observation period (from 0 to 36 months) , :
- rigidity reduced;
- speech improved;
- minimal tremors;
- no need to increase traditional drug therapy.
It was also noted that patients at an early stage of Parkinson’s disease treated with stem cells often did not experience disease progression and had more pronounced clinical improvement when compared to patients treated at the later stages of the disease .
At least part of the participants of the completed studies demonstrated the following improvements , :
- Reduced rigidity;
- Improved speech;
- Minimal tremors;
- Ability to do routine activities without much difficulty;
- Ability to walk for longer distances;
- Improved swallowing;
- Reduced involuntary movements;
- Increased independence during daily activities;
- Overall improvement assessed by the unified Parkinson’s disease rating scale (UPDRS) .
Results of Swiss Medica patients
Carlo G., a patient from Italy
“I was at all the best clinics, but none of them gave me the results like the ones I got after only 3 days in Swiss Medica clinic.”
Carlo is a patient from Italy who came to Swiss Medica to use stem cell for Parkinson’s treatment which was diagnosed six years before he came to the clinic. He spent three days receiving care for his condition.
After his treatment, he noticed an improvement in his symptoms compared to what he came to the clinic with. He also praised the professionalism of the staff who explained the procedure in detail to him and delivered it without any side effects or discomfort.
Francesco, a patient from Italy
“I can talk faster, write, walk in the mountains, wash by myself and play football with my grandchildren.”
Francesco, a patient from Italy, came to Swiss Medica’s Belgrade clinic to receive stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease after nine years. It started with symptoms like muscle rigidity, slowed movement, and balance issues.
After treatment, he noticed improvements in his cognition, and a better physical state, and could do activities of daily living independently only six weeks after treatment.
Patient from Denmark, 10 years with Parkinson’s disease
“Each tiny thing matters.”
His illness started with a little finger trembling and progressed to a complete inability to perform daily activities. After receiving stem cell therapy Parkinson’s disease, he feels that the progression of the disease has stopped. He can hold a glass and drink, lift his legs, clap his hands, and touch his head with his arm.
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Contact us to learn if you may benefit from the therapy, what the expected results of the treatment for your case are, and what its cost and duration will be.
How and why stem cells work in treating Parkinson’s disease
Stem cells used to treat Parkinson’s disease are mostly mesenchymal stem cells. These cells can produce a wide range of biologically active molecules (cytokines and growth factors), including those with neuroprotective and neurodegenerative properties. Also, in vitro studies showed that MSCs are potentially able to differentiate into various types of cells, including neurons, and form new synapses with neighboring neurons . The therapeutic effect is also provided by the immunomodulating effect of MSCs due to the neuroinflammatory nature of Parkinson’s disease .
Stem cell sources
MSCs can be obtained both from the patient’s own tissues (bone marrow, adipose tissue, peripheral blood, or gingiva) or from donor sources (placenta, umbilical cord, or bone marrow). The source of cells is selected based on the patient’s condition, disease state, the presence of contraindications to the collection of the patient’s own cells (tolerance to anesthesia, risk of bleeding, etc), and also the combined use of donor and patient’s own cells in a personal treatment program.
What the therapy involves
The treatment procedure, for autologous stem cells and Parkinson’s disease, involves the following stages:
- Cell harvesting from one of the sources of stem cells.
- Creating the cell product – processing and cultivation to obtain the required number of MSCs (this is the most time-consuming step which lasts about 4 weeks).
- Stem cell injections.
When donor cells are used for treatment, the second step is excluded: cultivated and cryopreserved in advance stem cells (patient’s own or donated) may be ready for use within 24 hours.
Before the stem cell transplant for Parkinson’s disease, a Swiss Medica doctor will examine you to determine the current state of your health and individual characteristics, and to collect information from your medical history to determine your eligibility for receiving stem cell therapy with MSCs. Laboratory and/or instrumental tests are performed at this time. The specialist will choose the most suitable source of autologous MSCs (bone marrow, adipose/fat tissue, or gingival tissue) or recommend treatment with donor stem cells.
To extract autologous MSCs, the doctor will first prepare your skin by cleaning it with an antiseptic in the operating room and then will administer local or general anesthesia. A sample of the biological material is then extracted.
The bone marrow samples are usually collected from the top ridge of the back of a hipbone or sometimes from the front of the hip. Adipose tissue is harvested in the area of the anterior abdominal wall, side surfaces of the waist, loins, buttocks, or the outer side of the hips. When cells are collected from the gingival tissue, the doctor takes a small part (3-4 mm3) of the gum.
All of the above-listed methods of sampling biological material to obtain stem cells are almost painless and well-tolerated.
If you have any questions regarding treatment procedures, contact a Swiss Medica medical advisor for detailed information and conditions.
Your comfort during the procedures
You may feel some pain similar to the sensations from ordinary syringe injections while the doctor introduces the local anesthetic during autologous cell harvesting and during local cell product injections.
Safety of stem cell therapy
The procedures are usually well-tolerated in the majority of patients. Parkinson’s stem cell clinical trials confirmed the safety of local injections and treatment with MSCs from the perspective of tumor formation after a follow-up period . Individual intolerance (short-term fever), while rare, cannot be excluded. Swiss Medica specialists will monitor your condition for safer and more beneficial results.
Recovery after treatment
You may feel a slight soreness in the place where stem cell for Parkinson’s disease were injected. Discomfort may occur for a few days after harvesting the biomaterial. During this period, you may also feel some weakness.
To understand the effectiveness of stem cell treatment and create a follow-up procedure plan, patients undergo a routine examination several weeks after the stem cell injection. The results of the treatment are observed 3-6 months after the procedure and the treatment plan is adjusted for the patient’s unique needs.
If you have any questions about the treatments and using stem cells to treat Parkinson’s disease, please contact our medical advisor. They’ll be able to connect you with a specialist from our clinic to discuss your case.
What the treatment program includes
When you come to Swiss Medica for cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease, the treatment program consists of multiple things.
Our treatment program will start with the consultation stage, where the patient speaks with one of our medical experts. During this stage,
- the patient’s medical history will be ascertained;
- medical reports will be corrected;
- certain tests may be done to get a better idea of their health and the severity of the condition.
These are important as they make it possible to develop a personalized treatment plan for each patient.
The actual stem cell replacement therapy for Parkinson’s disease is the major component of the program, but other therapies can help immensely with PD. At our clinic, we back our treatment with other therapies like medication, physiotherapy, and psychological therapy when necessary.
Cost of stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s disease
Stem cell research for Parkinson’s disease is constantly ongoing, and this is a testament to how new this form of therapy is compared to other options for the disease. Considering how cutting-edge it is, it may be costly.
However, in Swiss Medica, the pricing is ultimately dependent on:
- the severity of the condition;
- any comorbidities;
- how long the treatment is estimated to take;
- any additional therapies that may be required.
Online consultation with an expert of the Clinic is the best way to get an accurate estimate of the costs in your particular case.
Get a free online consultation to learn about the expected results of the treatment, its cost, and its duration.
List of References
De Lau, L.M., and Breteler, M.M. 2006. Epidemiology of Parkinson’s disease. Lancet Neurol 5, 525-535.
Rocha, E.M., De Miranda, B., and Sanders, L.H. 2017. Alpha-synuclein: Pathology, mitochondrial dysfunction and neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease. Neurobiol Dis.
Wakabayashi, K., Tanji, K., Mori, F., and Takahashi, H. 2007. The Lewy body in Parkinson’s disease: molecules implicated in the formation and degradation of alpha-synuclein aggregates. Neuropathology 27, 494-506.
Mendes Filho D et al. Therapy with Mesenchymal Stem Cells in Parkinson Disease: History and Perspectives. Neurologist. 2018 Jul;23(4):141-147.
Venkataramana NK et al. Bilateral transplantation of allogenic adult human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells into the subventricular zone of Parkinson’s disease: a pilot clinical study. Stem Cells Int. 2012;2012:931902.
Glavaski-joksimovic A, Bohn MC. Mesenchymal stem cells and neuroregeneration in Parkinson’s disease. Exp Neurol. 2013;247:25–38.
Tansey MG, Goldberg MS. Neuroinflammation in Parkinson’s disease: its role in neuronal death and implications for therapeutic intervention. Neurobiol Dis. 2010;37:510–518.
Venkatesh K, Sen D1. Mesenchymal Stem Cells as a Source of Dopaminergic Neurons: A Potential Cell Based Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease. Curr Stem Cell Res Ther. 2017;12(4):326-347.
Antonio J. Salgado et al. Mesenchymal stem cells secretome as a modulator of the neurogenic niche: basic insights and therapeutic opportunities. Front Cell Neurosci. 2015 Jul 13;9:249.
Glavaski-Joksimovic A, Bohn MC. Mesenchymal stem cells and neuroregeneration in Parkinson’s disease. Exp Neurol. 2013; 247:25-38.
World Health Organization. Parkinson disease. WHO. 2022 Jun 13.
National Institute on Aging. Parkinson’s Disease: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments. National Institutes of Health (NIH). 2022 April 14.
Stoker TB. Chapter 9: Stem Cell Treatments for Parkinson’s Disease. National Library of Medicine. 2018 Dec 21.