STEM CELL THERAPY FAQs
What’s the latest science on Parkinson’s and adult stem cell therapy?
>> DR. MARC PENN: For Parkinson’s disease, there’s a lot of excitement about stem cells, and they really get divided into two focuses. One is replacing the substantia nigra, the lost neurons in the brain that cause Parkinson’s. The other is adult stem cell therapy, which are trying to minimize the inflammation around the substantia nigra that is ultimately killing those cells and trying to activate neural progenitor cells or the stem cells of the brain to try and replace some of those cells.
How can stem cell therapy improve Parkinson’s symptoms?
>> DR. PENN: The thought is that by giving adult stem cells, they’re able to minimize the inflammation around the substantia nigra, which minimizes the progression of the Parkinson’s disease. They also activate the neural progenitor cells in the brain or the brain stem cells that can then be recruited to the site of tissue injury, where they may replace the lost substantia nigra cells or support the cells that have survived so that there’s better dopamine release and better overall function.
What is the treatment like for Parkinson’s?
>> DR. PENN: For Parkinson patients at Okyanos, we treat them with autologous fat-derived stem cells or SVF. Patients undergo a liposuction. We take that lipoaspirate, put it into a Tissue Genesis Icellator system that isolates the stem cells from the fat in a solution that is sufficiently pure that we can give the stem cells intravenously. Before we give the intravenous infusion, we give the patient a very old drug called mannitol. It’s a sugar that opens up the blood-brain barrier so that the stem cells and the things they secrete like exosomes and proteins can get into the brain for about an hour or two. We then give the stem cells intravenously over about a half hour to 45 minutes, and then we’re done.
How many Parkinson’s patients have been treated, and what are the outcomes?
>> DR. PENN: We’ve treated over 30 patients with Parkinson’s disease at Okyanos, and we’ve seen about an 80% response rate. That response is variable.
In some cases, it’s patients who, a year later, tell us they have not felt any better, but they note this is the first year they didn’t progress with their disease; to patients who had moderate Parkinson’s disease and were unable to button their shirt, spoke with a very soft voice, who are now buttoning their shirt, more strong in the voice, and socially active to a much greater extent than they were before; to patients who really had marked Parkinson’s disease who were really near bed-bound who are now up, socially engaging, walking with a walker, or better, and families have really noticed a big change in them.
So we’ve seen, excitingly, response in the majority of patients we’ve treated, but the response is variable.