Alzheimer's disease is the sixth leading cause of the death in the United States. Currently, one in three seniors die because of it or another form of dementia, and it's the only cause of death in the top 10 leading causes of death in the U.S. that can't be prevented, cured or slowed. Alzheimer's is a neurogenerative disease, meaning that, as the disease progresses, it destroys nerve cells.
There is no cure for Alzheimer's. The drugs that are available to treat the disease only temporarily manage its symptoms. While these drugs can help prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine, which carries signals between neurons, it can't prevent the actual neurons from breaking down.
"The drugs that are available to treat the disease only
temporarily manage its
At the moment, there are no stem cell treatments for Alzheimer's disease. One reason is because the brain contains a number of different neurons. That means if stem cells were introduced, they'd have to be able to produce the many different types of damaged cells. That's not an easy feat to accomplish. These stem cells would also have to travel to the many different damaged areas of the brain.
Despite these obstacles, there is great news. Scientists are not abandoning their efforts to test whether stem cells are a viable option to treat dementia. In fact, their efforts are only beginning. At the "Accelerating the Cure for Alzheimer's Disease through Regenerative Medicine" conference held on November 6, 2014 at Duke University, scientists revealed that the first clinical trials of stem cells were set to begin in 2015. Originally, the researchers injected stem cells in mice and saw some benefits. The next step will be to see whether the brain first accepts the stem cells and how the cells work to treat the disease.