Scientists explore the potential of using cord tissue mesenchymal stem cell extracts to slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. 

 Tackling Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias will affect more than 75 million people around the world by 2030 and 131 million people by 2050. It is a progressive neurodegenerative disease, which means nerve cells are increasingly damaged as the disease progresses. Scientists have identified several different factors like the build up of protein clumps known as plaques and tangles and the accumulation of toxins, all of which can contribute to Alzheimer’s progression.

Currently there is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Existing therapies focus on managing symptoms and slowing down progression. This means there a need for a therapeutic approach that will prevent or even reserse the nerve damage seen in Alzheimer’s. This is exactly what the researchers in this study were interested in looking at developing using cell-free therapy.

Cell-free Therapies

It is well established that stem cells have amazing therapeutic potential, which is why scientists have been looking at them for treating a multitude of diseases which included Alzheimer’s. However, in the recent research involving stem cells have focused more on an approach known as cell-free therapy.

Cell-based vs cell-free strategies for developing therapeutics.

Cell-free therapy is based on the idea that rather than using stem cell transplants, we can use stem cells as a source of therapeutic factors or molecules to develop therapies. The content inside stem cells will be removed and these molecules will be delivered to the patient to treat disease.

Several studies show that cell-free therapy may be beneficial for tackling neurological diseases among others.

Wharton’s Jelly Mesenchymal Stem Cells

Wharton’s jelly is the gelatine-like material that provides insulation and protection to the umbilical cord. It is also a rich-source of stem cells known as mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). MSCs have unlimited regenerative potential and act like a medical surveillance team in our bodies, fighting inflammation and activating the immune system, allowing cells to regenerate.

If you choose to preserve your baby’s cord tissue, the Wharton’s Jelly and the MSCS within it will be cryopreserved for later use. This means your baby will have access this valuable source of stem cells in the future if/when necessary. For example, if scientists develop a cell-free therapy to tackle Alzheimer’s in the future, your baby will have access to a perfectly matched stem cell sample they can use to avoid the disease.

Since the umbilical cord is usually discarded as medical waste, you can choose to save the cord without having to making any changes to your birth plan or having affecting your baby’s health in anyway.

Wharton’s Jelly Stem Cell Extracts Show Neuroprotective Effects

As mentioned already, cell-free therapy involves removing the material within stem cells. The next step involved packing this content or material into structures called vesicles, which are small fluid filled sacs for delivery. First part of this study focused on looking at the feasibility of generating vesicles containing MSC extracts using cells isolated from Wharton’s Jelly. Researchers showed that they can effectively isolate MSCs from Wharton’s jelly and generate vesicles containing their content (hMSC-EVs).

Extracts from cord tissue stem cells can protect against oxidative damage

They next went on to study the neuroprotective effects of hMSC-EVs using a hippocampal cell model. Hippocampal cells were derived from a specific region of the brain and serve as a good model for Alzheimer’s. These cells were first exposed to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress leads to cell damage and often the brains of Alzheimer’s patients show this kind of damage.  Amazingly, when these cells were provided with hMSC-EVs the amount of oxidative stress was reduced, highlighting the fact that hMSC-EVs can protect nerve cells from this type of cell damage.

Cord Tissue Mesenchymal Cell-Based Therapies for Alzheimer’s

Findings from this study lends support to the idea that cell-free therapy is a viable option for delivering biomolecules to reduce disease pathology of Alzheimer’s.

Given that vesicles are able to cross the blood-brain barrier and can be administered intravenously, it definitely provides an attractive, alternative treatment option for Alzheimer’s, which needs to be explored further with additional studies.

Reference

Extracellular vesicles derived from human Wharton’s jelly mesenchymal stem cells protect hippocampal neurons from oxidative stress and synapse damage induced by amyloid-β oligomers