Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia, it affects about 44 million people around the globe. Alzheimer’s is a progressive, degenerative disease that affects memory, judgement, and more. It is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Similarly, it is the only disease in the in the top ten of leading causes of death in the United States that cannot be cured or prevented. However, some believe that the cure for Alzheimer’s disease is obtainable, specifically through the use of stem cell therapy.
According to the Alzheimer’s Society, stem cells can grow into brain cells which, as a result, may have the potential to repair brain damage and help with neurological conditions. Despite the positive effects that stem cells may provide, there is some controversy and ethical dilemmas that surround this type of therapy.
There is more research that needs to be done on stem cell therapy for Alzheimer’s, and stem cells in general, and the clinical use of this type of therapy is still a long ways off. With that said, there are millions with Alzheimer’s in the country and, due to the severity of the disease, finding a cure or way to prevent the disease should be a top priority.
What Are Stem Cells?
Stem cells are different from other cell types based on two things:
- They are un-specialized cells capable of recreating themselves through cell division, even after long periods of inactivity
- Under certain conditions, they can become tissue- or organ-specific cells with specific and special functions.
This means that stem cells can be used to regularly divide in order to repair and replace worn out or damaged tissues. Due to their regenerative abilities stem cells offer potential for treating some diseases, including diabetes and heart disease. However, there is still more research to be done.
Research into stem cells will continue to advance the knowledge surrounding them and learn how they may be used to help with other debilitating diseases, such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
Despite the potential benefits that may come from researching and utilizing stem cells, there is some controversy surrounding the research of stem cells.
The controversy is centered around the moral implications of destroying human embryos to research stem cells. However, recent advancements have found that there are other ways of obtaining stem cells such as reprogramming cells found in the blood and other parts of adult humans.
An additional ethical dilemma is clones. Stem cells hold the potential to develop a human embryo, essentially creating a clone of the donor. In fact, many nations are preparing for this, using legislation to create bans on human cloning, including the European Union, Canada, Australia, and more. There are currently no federal laws that ban human cloning in the United States.
Stem Cells and Alzheimer’s
Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, and there are only some available drugs that can be used to improve cognitive symptoms temporarily. As mentioned before, stem cells can be used to grow brain cells and, in turn, have the potential to repair brain damage that is caused by dementia and other degenerative diseases.
“The situation for neuronal replacement aiming at functional restoration in [Alzheimer’s disease] is extremely complex because the stem cells have to be pre-differentiated in vitro,” the Journal of Neural Regeneration Research. “Stem cell-based cell replacement strategies are very far from clinical application in [Alzheimer’s disease].”
The allure of stem cells lies in the potential. While there is more to learn about stem cells and the possibilities that they hold for treatment of diseases and other problems, there needs to be consensus among the political and scientific communities regarding the ethics and morals of using stem cells. And there has been progress in the recent past when, in 2011, President Obama signed an executive order that lifted the ban on federal funding for stem cell research.
Alzheimer’s disease, as mentioned before, is a progressive illness which can get in the way of day-to-day tasks. After first being diagnosed with the disease, some patients may be able to continue living the way they have, but it soon may become too difficult to live independently.
Alzheimer’s, and dementia in general, can make doing daily life tasks more difficult which is why living independently can prove to be problematic. Alzheimer’s affects memory and judgement and can cause problems with bathing, dressing, eating, and more. People with Alzheimer’s also experience other problems including wandering. In fact, about 60 percent of those with Alzheimer’s will wander.
All of these issues can prove to be difficult, and even dangerous, for senior citizens. If the problem gets bad enough, you or a loved one may have to look to hire a caregiver or enlist the help of an assisted-living facility.
Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are progressive and degenerative conditions that affects memory and judgement. As it currently stands, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease and there is no way to prevent the disease. However, there is some evidence that stem cells may be able to help regenerate some of the brain functioning. While there is some controversy surrounding the use for stem cells, some of the controversy has subsided with recent discoveries and methods for obtaining stem cells. Still, there is more research to be done on the effectiveness of stem cell therapy and they are still very far from clinical application.
While cures for Alzheimer’s and dementia are still likely far off, people with these diseases are likely to need to enlist the help of a caregiver or assisted living facility. Landmark Senior Living is one facility that can help your loved one. At Landmark we offer patients the medical attention that they require while also providing memory care to those patient who need it. Landmark staff also give residents access to social events and activities that will keep them mentally engaged in their new environment. If you would like more information about Landmark Senior Living, please visit our website today.