Is stem cell therapy likely to cure Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is one of the deadliest neurological disorders known to afflict mankind. It is caused after the neurons in the brain get damaged or impaired, thus affecting their production of the essential chemical dopamine. Dopamine is essential for the smooth functioning of the body’s muscles. When dopamine is not produced, the muscles begin to lose their coordination and can suffer from incessant tremors.
The symptoms of PD are varied, though the common ones are shaking limbs and head, mild but visible tremors, rigidity in joints and movement, unmoving facial expressions and change in walk or gait.
PD is on the rise in India – doctors believe that roughly one lakh people per year develop the disease, with most of them being over the age of 50 years. A lack of awareness about the disease and what causes it, apart from its symptoms makes the treatment of the disease more difficult, believe neurologists.
Neurologists all over the world are involved in research or studying the effects of dopamine loss from the brain and the resulting effects on the human body. It now turns out that dopamine may be derived from stem cells. Thus, if dopamine is introduced into a person afflicted with PD, there may be a genuine chance at a cure from the disease.
The idea driving the potential cure rests on the premise that if around 1,00,000 dopamine cells are introduced into the brain’s nigral area (where the neurons producing dopamine are created) the PD patient might benefit from the infusion. However, trials in the US and UK have not been successful thus far. Stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s is being tried on laboratory rats in the UK, but the results are inconclusive since the trial takes place only over a period of a few months.
Stem cell therapy seems to be the dominant choice in finding a treatment for PD since they can change into other cells within the body. However, stem cell therapy for Parkinson’s is still in the experimental stages and is not being advocated anywhere in the world. In India, deep brain stimulus treatment for PD is approved by the FDA and is a widely used approach.
 Pal, Somita, ‘Awareness of Parkinson’ Disease on shaky ground’, April 12, 2015, DNA
 ‘Dopamine cell therapy for Parkinson’s shows promise’, http://medicalxpress.com/news/2014-10-dopamine-cell-therapy-parkinson.html
 Data from The Parkinson’s Clinic, KokilabenDhirubhaiAmbani Hospital, Mumbai