Have you ever given a thought on how a person walk and climb so easily without falling down or how easily we hold a glass of water to drink? For all these control and coordinated movements, a part of brain called cerebellum is responsible whose function is to act on signals received from the brain and spinal cord. When cerebellum and its surrounding structure get affected, ataxia occurs. Spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) – a type of ataxia is a genetically inherited disorder that is characterized by person’s abnormal brain functioning. Different types of SCA are grouped according to the genotype of the mutated gene. The patients diagnosed with ataxia develop problems with movement, balance, gait, coordination issues and sometimes slurred speech and vision problems. The disease may later develop fatigue, swallowing problems, tremors, reduced coordination, decreased mental alertness and unpaired motor functions.
The medical science does not have a definite cure for ataxias till today. If the ataxia is developed due to another condition, the underlying condition is treated first. The conventional treatment available for spinocerebellar ataxia such as occupational , physical or speech therapy focus on alleviating the symptoms, not on treating the loss of neurological function caused by cell degeneration in the cerebellum. Supportive technologies help people in their activities of daily living, and physical therapy can help to strengthen their muscles.
Stem cell technology
Stem cell therapies are coming up as medical boon to because of their functional ability to repair damaged tissues. Stem cells are smart cells of body which has ability to renew itself or develop any kind of cell such as skin cell, muscle cell or nerve cell. Stem cells are like maintenance crew that function is to repair damaged or worn out cells in body.
Stem cell therapies are being explored to help people suffering from various diseases including orthopedic conditions, neurodegenerative disorders including spinocerebellar ataxia. A large number of clinical studies conducted globally are proven evidence of regenerative power of stem cells.
Recently a clinical study evaluated safety, tolerability and efficacy of intravenous administration of allogeneic adipose tissue derived mesenchymal stem cells in patients suffering with spinocerebellar ataxia. The stem cell dose was 106 cells/kg body weight. No adverse events related to the injection of MSCs during the 1-year follow-up were observed. The intravenous administration of allogeneic MSCs seemed well tolerated. Upon study completion, all patients wished to continue treatment with the allogeneic MSCs.
With Stem cell therapy, the patient suffering with spinocerebellar ataxia patient is expected to have improvements in –
- Better coordination and balance and motor function
- Reduced fatigue and tremor
- Improved speech
- Better cognitive ability
With positive clinical findings, Stem cell therapy has sparked a ray of hope for those suffering with degenerative disorders. Still, a lot needs to be explored to gain the full potential of stem cells and continued research will definitely pave the way for new treatment modality.