Recently I called a friend who is a surgeon in Florida to tell him about my research to inject stem cells into the Meibomian Glands. I was awaiting a caution over-the-phone frown and concern, given stem cell injections into the Meibomian Glands has never been attempted and is groundbreaking.
Instead, he said, “I have injected stem cells intrathecally (in the spinal cord area) on four Alzheimer’s patients and a patient with ALS.” I was shocked. I asked the details on these patients. He and a fellow surgeon have measured cognitive function under a detailed protocol before and after stem cell injection. All patients have improved significantly according to these tests and family members but there are no controls in their study (they did not do a “sham” (or pretend) injection). There have been no complications. It has not been published. He plans to continue to do these injections.
I can understand. Alzheimer’s is a devastating condition which is painful to watch: to watch the deterioration of your loved ones with no treatment available to give them. If my mom or dad had Alzheimer’s I would be in line to signup to try stem cell injections as well, even if there is a small chance it would help. The fact is that Stem Cell Injections for numerous disease are showing promise in many cases, but there is no randomized, controlled study to prove it works across the board. We are in the next frontier in Medicine and Surgery. And with many of these diseases, such as ALS and Alzheimer’s, there is a race against time (I would include Meibomian Gland Disease in this race against time disease category): once the neurons (or glands) are dead it can be very difficult to bring them back to life. Getting to these patients earlier may prove to be more successful than injecting into areas with totally dead neurons (or glands). But we do not know yet.
This led me to do more research on Stem Cell Injections for Alzheimer’s patients. I have many friends and patients who have Alzheimer’s and it is a devastating illness. We even just now started a protocol in our office to record our conversations, if the patient approves, to be able to have the patient replay the office visit so the patient and his or her family can remind the patient of what I said and how medicines should be used.
Many doctors these days have at least one patient who comes in multiple times per week forgetting they had already come in for their visit. They call multiple times with the same questions and sometimes get very upset that “nobody told me…” even though multiple staff members have told them the same thing over and over. We cannot discharge these patients from our practice as hard as it is for our staff, even though that would be easier. I often tell our staff: this could be us in 50 years. I often joke with my wonderful executive assistant Kat who is about to go to medical school, “will you still love me when I am like Mrs. H,” referring to our well-known patient who has Alzheimer’s and lives alone with almost no family to help.
The key cause of Alzheimer’s Disease is an abnormality of the amyloid cascade: there is an abnormally large deposition of amyloid protein deposited in the brain and other parts of the body. But certain cases of AD patients without Aβ deposition suggest the possibility of a AD mechanism not related to Aβ such as the suspected non-amyloid (or Alzheimer’s disease) pathophysiology.
Here are the best papers I could find on Stem Cell Injections for Alzheimers. It is very controversial. It is not covered by any insurance and it can cost between $6000-10000 per treatment.
The conclusion of these papers:
Stem Cell Therapy: A Prospective Treatment for Alzheimer’s Disease