October 15, 2018
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Direct transplantation of neural stem cells into mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease improves recognition memory, spatial memory and learning, according to findings that were published in Nature Scientific Reports. Lisa McGinley, PhD, Assistant Research Professor of Neurology and a Handleman Emerging Scholar at Michigan Medicine, is the first author of the manuscript entitled “Human neural stem cell transplantation improves cognition in a murine model of Alzheimer’s disease.” Program for Neurology Research & Discovery (PNR&D) Director Eva L. Feldman, MD, PhD, is the study principal investigator and corresponding author. Read the complete article here.
Stem cell transplantation offers a potentially transformative approach to treating neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In ALS, stem cell transplantation safety measures have been established for humans. Before beginning similar human trials in Alzheimer’s disease, preclinical trials are being used to demonstrate efficacy.
“Our ability to use neural stem cells as a means to improve cognition in Alzheimer’s disease models is an amazing breakthrough,” said Feldman, the Russel N. DeJong Professor of Neurology. “My laboratory will continue refining the techniques in this research with a three-year goal of beginning a phase I safety trial in man.”
For this preclinical study, stem cell treatment was assessed throughout a 17-week post-transplant period. The findings confirmed that direct transplantation of human neural cells into the brain significantly improves cognition in memory tasks at 4 and 16 weeks post-transplantation. The stem cells led to a reduction in amyloid plaques, which are toxic to neurons, and an increase in microglial cells, which may assist in the clearance of plaques from the brain.
The data also suggests that the stem cells quickly integrated into the native tissue, which indicates a reduced need for continued immunosuppression in future trials. Overall, the results support further preclinical development of human neural stem cells as a safe and effective therapy for Alzheimer’s disease. Last month, the PNR&D received a $3 million grant from the National Institute on Aging (NIA) to further pursue stem cell therapies in Alzheimer’s disease.
“The results from this preliminary study are very encouraging as we continue to learn how neural stem cell transplantation reverses the crippling effects of Alzheimer’s disease,” said McGinley. “We were especially interested to see that the transplanted stem cells survived only a short time, yet their therapeutic benefit had a long-lasting effect on reducing amyloid plaques. We look forward to beginning our next preclinical studies in early 2019.”
Alzheimer’s disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the U.S. More than 5.7 million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, which is the primary cause of dementia in the country. This number is projected to reach 14 million Americans by 2050. The national cost of caring for the Alzheimer’s population is currently estimated to be more than $277 billion for 2018. By 2050, these costs could reach $1.1 trillion.
About the Program for Neurology Research and Discovery: Under the direction of Dr. Eva Feldman since 2000, PNR&D is a group of 30-plus scientists, clinicians, and students, who are working toward the common goal of understanding and curing neurological diseases, especially ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), Alzheimer’s disease, and diabetic neuropathy.