Q) What is Alzheimer's disease and can stem cells help?
A) Alzheimer's disease is caused by cell death in several areas of the brain. It is a progressive disorder that leads to loss of memory and cognitive abilities. Ultimately, Alzheimer's is fatal. There is currently no cure.
Damage to the brain in Alzheimer's disease is widespread, making stem cell-based approaches to treatment problematic. Stem cell therapy offers greatest potential for diseases in which specific, well-known types of cell need to be replaced or helped to function correctly. In Alzheimer's disease several different groups of brain cell would need to be replaced, and scientists believe it is highly likely that the signals needed to help transplanted cells integrate into the brain may be absent in the Alzheimer brain.
Stem cells could, however, be genetically modified so as to deliver substances to the Alzheimer brain, to stop cells from dying and stimulate the function of existing cells. A recent clinical trial (Phase I) has shown this approach to be of some benefit to patients with Alzheimer's disease, by slowing down the progression of the disease. Read up on Crispr/Cas9
Q) How do I find a clinical trial??
A) The most complete listing of clinical trials on gene therapy and cell therapy based in the U.S.A. is http://www.clinicaltrials.gov. To view a list of clinical trials for gene therapy trials for a specific disease, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov and search for specific disease and "gene therapy." Similarly, a list of cell therapy trials for a specific disease can be obtained at www.clinicaltrials.gov by searching for the specific disease and "cell therapy." The list of clinical trials indicates whether each clinical trial is pending, recruiting (looking for patients), or ongoing (have enrolled sufficient patients).
In addition, several foundations which provide information and research support for a specific disease such as the National Hemophilia Foundation, Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Blindness.org, Retinal International.org, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Leukemia Research Foundation, and American Diabetes Association,have a webpage which lists clinical trials.
Patients with several different genetic diseases and their families have started internet-based chat rooms where they can discuss current trials and upcoming trials.