One of the most ubiquitous behavioral problems seen in children is Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The disease is mostly seen in children, with more numbers of boys getting affected. All around the world, there is an incidence of 4-12% ADHD in school going children, while nearly 4-5% of patients are college going or are adults, with equal numbers of men and women affected. Recent figures also point out at the treatment of ADHD in adults showing a lag behind that of children.
ADHD is associated with disorders that are mainly psychiatric, such as oppositional defiant disorder, a repeated and a persistent anger issue towards figures of authority such as parents or teachers. Other such issues include anxiety and mood disorders and the use of drugs/ cigarettes. ADHD is also accompanied by the symptoms of anxiety, panic or depression and low self-esteem. Statistics also point to an incidence of ADHD in children with bipolar disorder (a psychiatric issue where there are extremes of joy or sorrow).
A major challenge with the incidence of ADHD is in the absence of proper treatment. The patient faces problems such as not performing well in school or when taking professional courses, as well as child-like behavior that affects interpersonal relationships. The diagnosis of this disorder involves meeting six or more of the symptoms described.
The causes behind this disease involve multiple factors that are complex and mixed and still require clarity in terms of several abnormalities in the brain such as a decreased volume of the clusters of nerves or affected functions of certain regions of the brain associated with important functions.
Several medications such as stimulants are described that have been shown as effective yet they have side effects such as insomnia or upset stomach as well as affected appetite. Other drugs include anti hypertensives that all are associated with unwanted side effects.
The field of stem cells shows potential for the therapy of several diseases including those of the nervous system. With their ability to divide and be differentiated into millions of healthy cells they can be a gold mine for the patients, as well as medical experts! Additionally, stem cells produce molecules that can regenerate cells and the key molecule of the nervous system called myelin. Studies in similar neurodegenerative diseases such as stroke have shown promise where stem cells have aided in the regeneration of damaged cells of the nervous system.
Stem cells can be isolated from the patient’s own cells such as fat tissue or bone marrow, concentrated and injected back into a patient with damaged nerves. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) can mobilize in the brain and get differentiated into neurons and glial cells. Their ability to transform from one type of stem cells into others, aids in neurogenesis processes, and induction of angiogenesis. MSCs have been used in treating diseases that repair and regenerate hematopoietic and mesenchymal tissues, as well as autoimmune diseases. Then, there are autologous stem cells for patients who do not prefer using embryonic stem cells for ethical reasons.
In 2015, a research team recruited patients to study the effect of patient’s derived stem cells to be converted into neurons for treatment of ADHD. Another report published in 2016 studied the role of Induced pluripotent stem cells that are stem cells made from normal cells of the body by the use of certain factors. The team produced stem cells from Induced pluripotent stem cells isolated from the urine of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. The results of the use of stem cells in the treatment of ADHD too are on their way to meeting dawn of the day!