Approximately 5.4 million people in the United States are living with Alzheimer’s disease – one in eight older Americans suffers from this condition.1 It’s an irreversible, progressive brain disease that negatively impacts memory and cognitive skills. With no known cure today, the scientific community continues to research potential new treatment options, including the potential use of umbilical cord blood and cord tissue stem cells.
Umbilical cord tissue offers an abundant source of Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs). These stem cells are expected to play a critical role in the treatment of disease and are being studied in great detail for their regenerative properties in cartilage, muscle, and nerve cells. In Alzheimer’s the dysfunction of a certain type of neuron (nerve cell), called the cholinergic neuron, is one cause of cognitive disorder in patients.
Recently, a group of researchers set out to determine if umbilical cord tissue stem cells could differentiate specifically into cholinergic-like neurons, making them a possible candidate for stem cell therapy in Alzheimer’s patients. The results of the study demonstrated that after being induced, umbilical cord tissue stem cells did in fact have the capability to differentiate into cholinergic-like neurons. Another relevant finding of the study was the acetylcholine secretion in the induced cells was significantly elevated. Acetylcholine secretion serves as an important neurotransmitter – relaying information between one neuron and an adjacent cell (neuron, muscle cell, gland cell).2
More studies like this will need to be done before cord tissue stem cells may be used to help treat Alzheimer’s patients. At this time, umbilical cord tissue stem cells are not being used in medical applications for humans. However, studies such as the one above continue to affirm the value of umbilical cord tissue stem cells. With their instant availability at birth and potential to treat serious disease, expecting parents should take a moment to consider saving their newborns cord tissue stem cells. Banking cord tissue today is a way of planning ahead and preparing for what tomorrow’s science may bring.
1. Alzheimer’s Association; Alzheimer's Facts and Figures http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp
2. Acetylcholine; New World Encyclopedia http://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Acetylcholine