Parkinson’s disease 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.
Parkinson’s is characterized by both motor symptoms (tremors, slowed movements, muscle stiffness, balance and posture problems, loss of automatic movements, and difficulties with speech and writing) and non-motor signs and symptoms (anhedonia, depression, anxiety, olfactory deficiency, sleep disorders, and cognitive impairment).
Symptoms of the disease include the loss of a large number of neurons in the area of the brain called the substantia nigra. These neuron produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that provides signal transduction to the nerve cells. Another identifying feature of this disorder is the emergence of clumps (Lewy bodies) in the brain formed by a protein alpha-synuclein.
How Stem Cell Therapy Can Help Treat Parkinson’s Disease
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 behaviour, 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 (MMSCs) both on animal models and in clinical trials confirm that such approaches may slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease and reduce symptoms, as well as lower adverse effects of existing medications.
Studies of efficacy and the safety of autologous or donor MMSCs when implanted into the 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 month):
- 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.
- 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., patient from Italy (in Italian, subtitles in English):
“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”.
Franchesco, patient from Italy:
“I can talk faster, write, walk in the mountains, wash by myself and play football with my grandchildren”.
Patient from Denmark, 10 years with Parkinson’s disease:
“Each tiny thing matters”. His illness started with a little finger trembling and progressed to complete inability to perform daily activities. Now 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 our medical advisor to find out if stem cells would work for you.
How and Why Stem Cells Work in Treating Parkinson’s Disease
MMSCs 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 MMSCs are potentially able to differentiate into various types of cells, including neurons, and form new synapses with neighbouring neurons. The therapeutic effect is provided also by the immunomodulating effect of MMSCs due to the neuroinflammatory nature of Parkinson’s disease.
Stem Cell Sources
MMSCs 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 anaesthesia, 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, when autologous cells are used, involves the following stages:
- Cells harvesting from one of the sources of MMSCs;
- Creating the cell product – processing and cultivation to obtain the required number of MMSCs (this is the most time-consuming step which lasts about 4 weeks);
- MMSC injection.
When donor cells are used for treatment, the second step is excluded: cultivated and cryopreserved in advance stem cells (own or donated) may be ready for use within 24 hours.
Prior to the procedure, 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 MMSCs. Laboratory and/or instrumental tests are performed at this time. The specialist will choose the most suitable source of autologous MMSCs (bone marrow, adipose/fat tissue or gingival tissue) or recommend treatment with donor stem cells.
To extract autologous MMSCs, the doctor will first prepare your skin by cleaning it with an antiseptic in the operating room and then will administer a 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.
Bone marrow collection takes about an hour on average.
Harvesting of adipose-derived SVF cells takes about 30 minutes and varies depending upon the amount of tissue aspirated from the patient.
Collecting cells from gingival tissue only takes about 5-15 minutes.
The patient is monitored after collecting MMSCs to ensure his or her safety.
Patient’s Comfort During the Procedures
Medical procedures are carried out in a calm and comfortable environment in compliance with the established norms and conditions.
In the case of collecting the patient’s own cells, the harvesting is performed in the operating room. At this stage, the patient may feel a slight pain, similar to the usual sensation from an injection when the doctor introduces an anaesthetic. After the procedure, there may be minor and short-term discomfort associated with the invasiveness of the procedure (breach of tissue integrity).
However, for older patients, the use of cultured stem cells obtained from donor sources is recommended. This minimizes the risks associated with the harvesting of biomaterial, and it also makes treatment more tolerable.
Both when using patient’s own or donated cells (which do not require the collection of their own biomaterial), the introduction of MSCs is no different from the introduction of other drugs.
For therapy, a standardised injection (through an IV drip) of a cell product is used, while the patient is in a relaxed state within 1-2 hours.
Safety of Stem Cell Therapy
The procedures are usually well tolerated in the majority of patients. Clinical trial results confirmed the safety of local injections and treatment with MMSCs from the perspective of tumour 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 cells 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.
Get a free online consultation
Contact our medical advisor to discuss your individual case and find out if stem cells would work for you.
List of References:
List of References
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.
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.