New Thinking About Alzheimer's Treatment
Current therapies are the triumph of hope over experience.
Could Stem Cells Stem the Tide of AD? continued...
"Stem cells, although they're promising for other diseases, it's not very likely practically that they'll be used for Alzheimer's disease, because the way stem cell replacement is practiced in clinical research is by surgically implanting stem cells into regions of the brain where there has been degeneration, and that's fairly local in terms of Parkinson's disease and Huntington's, but for the entire cerebral cortex you're talking about making dozens of little holes in the skull," says Sam Gandy, MD, PhD, director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia.
"There is a fairly new area focusing on identification of stem cells that are still present in the adult brain that weren't thought to be there," Gandy tells WebMD. "It's conceivable that if there were enough of those in quantity or you could deliver them, and if they have enough dividing potential you could stimulate them to replace the dying nerve cells in their immediate environment, but that still is very complicated."
The job would involve turning on dormant stem cells, getting them to change into the right kind of cell, and then getting them to move to the part of the brain where they're needed to repair damage, a series of tasks that are beyond our current capabilities, Gandy says.
Sheldon L. Goldberg, president and CEO of the Alzheimer's Association, tells WebMD that few or none of the 800 or so grant applications for research funding received by the association this year have been for stem cell research.
The State of Statins?
Observations that there appears to be an association between the use of cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins and a lower incidence of Alzheimer's disease have prompted researchers to see whether these drugs could also help prevent it. As reported by WebMD, several studies presented at the conference here point to a link between heart disease risk factors and AD.
Statins also have anti-inflammatory effects that could be beneficial for Alzheimer's disease patients, and there is intriguing evidence indicating that the drugs may help to reduce the production of beta amyloid.