Most of us have seen the devastating effects that Alzheimer’s can have on those who develop it. It is a disease that not only impacts the people who suffer from it but it takes a toll on their loved ones as well. While it is most common among the elderly, it can manifest in people in their thirties or forties. Considering its prevalence, it would not be an exaggeration to consider it a public health crisis.
Scientists are leveraging the power of regenerative medicine to help find a cure for this condition or, even better, preventing it from occurring at all. Find out how you can benefit from these advances by banking your cells today.
What is Alzheimer’s?
First identified by German neurologist Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, it is a disease that affects the regions of the brain that control language and memory. Alzheimer’s is the most frequent type of dementia.
This condition is progressive, meaning that it gets worse over time. It begins with mild memory loss and can eventually interfere with a person’s ability to carry out simple tasks such as concentrating and communicating with others. It can also cause behavioral changes such as depression or anger and even hallucinations.
How do you get Alzheimer’s?
While the exact cause of Alzheimer’s is still unknown, there are several factors that impact the risk of developing the disease.
- Old age. Alzheimer’s is not a normal part of aging, however, it is most prevalent in people over 65 years old. From this point onwards, the risk of developing the disease doubles every 5 years.
- Family history. According to Harvard Medical School, having a close relative who has had Alzheimer’s increases the risk of developing the disease by 30%.
- Environmental factors. A review published in BMC Geriatrics points to moderate evidence implicating risk factors like air pollution, pesticides, and vitamin D deficiency in the development of Alzheimer’s.
- Traumatic injuries. The Alzheimer’s Association reveals that adults who have sustained moderate traumatic brain injury have a 2.3 times higher risk of developing the disease. For those who have experienced severe traumatic brain injury, the risk is 4.5 times greater.
There are over 747,000 Canadians living with Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia at the moment. Worldwide the number exceeds 40 million. Of those people, up to 5 percent have younger-onset Alzheimer’s.
What are the stages of Alzheimer’s?
This disease impacts people in different ways. However, the progression of the symptoms is usually divided into 3 general stages: early, middle, and late.
The first symptom that people usually develop is memory loss. A person might have trouble learning new information such as names or words. Confusion is common, as well as difficulty placing objects. This stage frequently lasts from 2 to 4 years.
By this stage, people tend to forget not only recently acquired information but personal details as well. Disorientation and mood swings are common. This stage can last up to 10 years, depending on the person.
People require assistance with simple daily tasks. They lose the ability to communicate with others and are unable to sit upright by themselves. At this point, they are vulnerable to infections, particularly pneumonia. As a result, this stage is often short. It lasts from 1 to 3 years.
Could regenerative medicine cure Alzheimer’s?
Throughout the last century, since the first diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, there have been multiple efforts to try and develop a treatment that can slow its progression and reverse its effects. Fortunately, thanks to the surge of clinical trials based on regenerative medicine in the last 10 years, we are closer than ever to accomplishing this goal.
Leveraging the power of Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSCs), scientists have been able to create neurons in the lab to model the disease. These are actual human-derived brain cells. The ability to do this, which allows scientists to better understand the way the disease develops and progresses, has in itself been a game-changer. However, it is just the beginning.
The next step is neural stem cell (NSC) transplantation. In a review published in the Journal of Biomedical Science in early 2020, researchers from Japan reveal that NSC transplantation can improve cognitive behavior in animal models of Alzheimer’s. After the procedure, NSCs release trophic factors (molecules that allow neurons to develop) and replace damaged neurons. This has been shown to improve individual memory function in mice.
What this means is that scientists have been able to create healthy brain cells and use them to repair the damage produced by Alzheimer’s. In this review, the authors also point to multiple studies that have shown similar improvement in cognitive behavior in animal models of Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
What we are looking at here is a procedure that could potentially revert the effects of Alzheimer’s and allow patients to regain their freedom. This would drastically improve the quality of life of millions of people around the world. All thanks to regenerative medicine.
How you can take action today
It is just a matter of time before these exciting advances give way to treatments that can be used safely and effectively in live subjects. When this happens, doctors will need a sample of a subject’s cells, which will then be reprogrammed to become the cell type required for treatment.
The sooner you have your cells extracted and preserved, the younger and healthier they will be. This means that their therapeutic potential will be higher, not just for treating Alzheimer’s but countless other conditions like Parkinson’s, heart disease, and spinal cord injury. To put yourself in a position to take advantage of these advancements, look to banking your cells with Acorn.