Stem cell therapy for Parkinson's disease
Over the cause of 2011, Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease and other dementias (e.g. vascular dementia) accounted for around 41,000 of all deaths in England and Wales - representing some 8.5% of all deaths.
It is proposed by some commentators that those sub-sections of the population that successfully avoid succeptibility to the major causes of death in England and Wales, such as circulatory diseases and cancers, through, for example, lifestyle and / or behaviourial factors are then principally at risk from neuro-degenerative diseases such as those listed above.
An increased long term, sustainable future step forward in mortality improvements is thus consistent with the introduction of successful therapies for such diseases.
Stem cell therapy is an intervention strategy that introduces new adult stem cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury.
Advancements in stem cell therapy are thought by some commentators to herald a "new age of medicine". Stem cell therapy is at a more advanced stage for certain diseases. For example, treating Parkinson's disease through successful growth AND transplantation of dopamine producing nerve cells appears to be within reach for scientists (source below).
Though Parkinson’s’ disease itself is not a major cause of death, the stem cell techniques developed in this research could help progress treatments of Alzheimer's disease and other dementias. More generally, this could also help advance the wider field of regenerative medicine at a faster rate.
It is also worth briefly noting that the use of (embryonic) stem cells brings with it a number of ethical and moral issues which we do not discuss here.
Source: Sundberg et al., Improved Cell Therapy Protocol for Parkinson’s Disease Based on Differentiation Efficiency and Safety of Hesc-, Hipsc, and Non-Human Primate Ipsc-Derived DA Neurons. Stem Cells. May 10, 2013.