Process of Findings:
From all the research that I have conducted it is clearly evident that at this moment in time there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease for humans, nor are there any ongoing experimental trials being conducted on humans to test these stem cell therapies. According to source 1; all that exists for those affected by the disease are medicines that only mask the symptoms of the disease and do not in any way cure someone of it. However, this in no way proves that there will never be a cure for the disease. There is lots of research ongoing in efforts to find a stem cell cure for the disease.
There have however been breakthroughs in the ways that stems cells can be obtained that avoid the much disliked and ethically challenging human foetal cell method of collecting them with regard to some religions and beliefs. As mentioned in Source 4, a skin punch can now be used to grow induced pluripotent stem cells using a growth medium and cellular reprogramming factors. This method is fairly simple and can be used to create stem cells in laboratories in the vast amounts that they are required for stem cell treatment to be viable as source 3 states is necessary. What too appeals to me about this method is that if the skin cells are harvested from the patient themselves, there will no longer be the need for him/her to take immunosuppressive drugs after the transplant. This is because the newly created induced pluripotent stem cells will have originated from their hosts body and so they won’t be rejected by the patient’s body.
Source 3 also makes mention of using the patient’s skin to create induced pluripotent stem cells but never mentions how such is achieved. These cells were however placed in rodent models of the disease and showed positive results as the animals’ symptoms of Parkinson’s did improve. This way of producing stem cells also avoids having to use foetal stem cells which is a big taboo in the science world. Avoiding this issue will please everyone and so more people will help and support stem cell research initiatives.
Dr Wade-Martins (of source 4) is also conducting important research into determining if there are any early telltale signs of neurons that may be diseased with Parkinson’s and what the cause of such may be. This research is however still very incomplete and so cannot be used as evidence to answer my question.
All my other sources (1,2,3,5) make mention of how transplanting stem cells into the brains of rat, mice and even monkey models of the disease had improved the animals symptoms but not once was it mentioned by how much their symptoms improved or even which of their symptoms it was that improved. Only source 5 makes mention of having conducted ‘behavioural tests’ on the animals to determine symptom improvements yet it still failed to name which symptoms it was exactly that improved. Another flaw in all of these experiments is that there is not once a mention of the measure of the sample size of the animals being used in these different experiments.
This could mean that there may have only been a very small number of animals displaying such favourable results, or that the experiments were genuinely successful on a large scale. We just don’t know.
What was promising of the results mentioned in source 5 is that not one of the animal models developed any tumours in the area of the transplantation of the stem cells after they underwent the operation. The risk of developing tumours after transplantation is one of the main reasons why this method of using stem cells to replace the degenerated dopamine neurons of the brain is still yet to be tested on humans. These tumours are a big part of what’s holding the progress of this cure back but it seems that Dr Sonya Kriks (Source ) has overcome this situation. How such was not mentioned in the article but I am most certain that if her method of transplanting the stem cells into the brains of the animals without there being a risk of tumours forming is proven to be safe and effective this will most definitely move the progress of using stem cells to cure Parkinson’s Disease forward. Unfortunately, this article is 4 years old already which could mean that it may be outdated as new findings regarding the disease and the treatment thereof have been discovered since then.
Source 2 provided me with a criteria for that which is required of stem cell therapy to be determined clinically safe to conduct on humans. According to this criteria induced pluripotent and embryonic stem cells only partially meet these requirements as of right now. This is good and bad at the same time because it means that right now we cannot cure Parkinson’s using such methods but at the same time we are well on our way to do so in the near future.
As of this very moment there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease using stems cells or anything else imaginable either. With regards to using stem cells as a possible cure there have been many advancements in the field that could one day possibly lead to there being a stem cell cure for the disease, namely:
‘ The ethically unchallenging methods in which we are now able to acquire stem cells without the need for foetal stem cells, such as by using skin cells to make induced pluripotent stem cells and the vast numbers in which they can be produced. This avoids any ethics related debacles regarding foetal stem cell harvesting as well.
‘ The success in alleviating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease that using these stem cells are having in rodent as well as monkey models of the disease, which are much more closely related to humans.
‘ The discovery of a method to perform the transplant without running the risk of the patient developing a tumour(s) thereafter.
‘ The ongoing research trying to determine what causes the dopamine neurons to commence dying off initially and any telltale signs thereof.
All these factors are what I believe will one day, in the near future, give rise to the cure for Parkinson’s disease using stem cell therapy.
What is currently and ultimately limiting the progress of this cure is that no testing has been conducted on humans thus far. Until such testing has been conducted the viability of this cure will remain unknown. Methods on how to properly insert the stem cells into the brain of humans have still not been tested as well as the effects the transplant has on human sufferers and their symptoms of the disease.
In order to determine whether stem cell can be used to cure Parkinson’s Disease now, I recommend that human trials begin as soon as possible. Investigative Question: Can stem cells be used to cure a neurological disease, namely; Parkinson’s Disease?
The aim of this research is to determine if stem cells can be used to cure Parkinson’s disease. I too aim to determine if such may be achieved by using stem cells that are obtained in an ethically unchallenging manner, such as by using induced pluripotent stem cells, which are created from one’s own skin, to cure the disease.
I chose to conduct research into this topic as currently there is no single cure for Parkinson’s Disease. All that currently exists to help the disease’s estimated 7-10 million sufferers are suppressive medicines that do not cure the patients of the disease but better their symptoms thereof. Stem cell therapy, if proven viable, will be the first treatment of the disease that will truly rid the patients of this disease and immediately improve their lives.
There is currently much research being conducted regarding the using of stem cells to cure Parkinson’s and whether or not this may be a viable method to do such. To aid in the answering of my question, I researched the progress that different scientists and laboratories across the world have made regarding such by means of the research/experiments that they have conducted. By putting all this information together and examining it I will be able to determine if stem cells can cure Parkinson’s Disease.
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