Stem Cell Therapy for Neuropathy
Neuropathy is a condition characterized by pain of the limbs, such as arms, hands, feet, and/or legs. Neuropathic (nerve-related) pain is initiated/caused by dysfunction of the nervous system. Most common symptoms of neuropathy include extreme sensitivity and dramatic response to pain. A new, innovative treatment for neuropathy is stem cell therapy.
Neuropathy and nerve-related pain reduces human well-being and is difficult to manage. Around 100 million people in the United States report chronic pain. The use of stem cells has proven to be effective at lessening the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy and peripheral nerve pain. Clinical evidence shows that stem cell therapy provides the best results and could decrease the use of pain medication.
How do stem cells work to treat neuropathic pain?
Stem cell therapy shows great promise for regenerative medicine in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy. Stem cells help slow the disease progression. In rat subjects, bone marrow-derived stem cells have shown promise in treating neurodegenerative disease, which proves neuroprotective when given intravenously (IV). Stem cell implantation has also been shown to work in the repair of axon regeneration and synapse reformation, which are structures of the nerve cell.
Do stem cells help treat pain?
Stem cell differentiation is thought to be the key to pain control. Serotonergic neural precursor cell grafts reduce hyperexcitability caused by pain. Neuropathic pain causes a decrease in the activity and number of neurons called GABA. The stem cells express anti-nociceptive molecules and/or trophic factors that have been found to relieve neuropathic pain. In addition, stem cells are used as pumps to deliver anti-nociceptive molecules close to the pain processing sites of nerve damage.
Which cells are most used in the treatment of peripheral neuropathy?
Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are showing the most promise in pain care research. These cells are a group of progenitor cells of mesodermal origin, which are found in adult bone marrow. These cells give rise to skeletal muscle cells, fat, blood, and connective tissues. MSCs also have a stable phenotype and are easily transported from the laboratory to physician office. These cells also migrate to the site of nerve damage and have good immunosuppressive properties.
Do clinical studies support the use of stem cells for peripheral neuropathy?
In a recent study in The Journal of Pain Research, researchers used stem cells for neuropathy relief successfully. They found that the treatment produced 60% relief at a six month time point. Because neuropathic pain impacts quality of life, it can be quite costly to the healthcare system. Researchers are continuing to study this problem.
Tulane University Center for Stem Cell Research conducted many studies using MSCs. They found these cells were effective and safe for treating inflammatory disease, such as peripheral neuropathy. The cells were found to optimize their anti-inflammatory effects. In mice subjects, researchers noted a 40% improvement rate.
What results can I expect with stem cell therapy for neuropathy?
Response to stem cell therapy usually starts within a few weeks to months. Patients often report effectiveness within 3-6 months. Patients with peripheral neuropathy respond over 60% of the time, according to studies. A second treatment may become necessary depending on the individual and therapy also involves several additional modalities such as light therapy and nutritional optimization.
Siniscalco D, Rossi F, & Maione S (2007). tem cell therapy for neuropathic pain treatment. J Stem Cells Regen Md, 3(1), 2-11.
A preliminary report on stem cell therapy for neuropathic pain in humans, Vickers et al, J Pain Res. 2014; 7: 255–263.