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Hope on the Horizon: Stem Cells Offer a Lifeline for Depression Sufferers

Hope on the Horizon: Stem Cells Offer a Lifeline for Depression Sufferers

October 9, 2023
Dr. Lana du Plessis
October 9, 2023
Dr. Lana du Plessis

Psychological disorders are frequently not regarded as seriously as physical disorders, because they cannot be seen by the naked eye. Depression is more rife than ever in all societies around the world. Around the world, 264 million people experience depression. Every year, roughly seventeen million people experience depressive episodes. Depression affects twice as many women than men, this has to do with intense hormonal changes that occur at specific times in their lives.

Unfortunately, these illnesses and ailments are real and can significantly negatively influence patients’ lives. A person with depression may experience the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. They are no longer fulfilled by the things, people, and cuisine they formerly loved. Depression can strike abruptly and without warning, which is even worse.

Depression therapy choices are fairly few, and many times they do not address the underlying problems. Before finding one that would effectively treat their symptoms, patients frequently need to try a number of medications or treatments. Many individuals are forced to take a prescription drug for the rest of their lives. These restrictions have compelled researchers to consider complementary therapies and drugs.

What Is Depression?

Depression can affect patients of any age; it can come and go and even last a lifetime. The way that depression affects the mind can dramatically alter how a patient feels, behaves, and thinks. Common symptoms of depression are detachment from interests and activities, low energy and/or exhaustion, difficulty concentrating, difficulty sleeping or excessive sleeping, and suicidal or death-related thoughts. It has been a goal of research to pinpoint the precise origins of depression.

What causes depression?

A variety of circumstances brings on depression. The likelihood of depression in a patient is increased by the following elements: trauma, hormones, genetics, inflammation, and changes in brain chemistry and structure.

What treatments are available for depression?

Therapy with a psychologist is among the most popular forms of treatment for depression. Many medical specialists would suggest long-term or short-term medicine, such as antidepressants, if treatment does not help, they will advise people who are dealing with depression to exercise. These treatments will be effective for many people, but regrettably, not all depressed patients will benefit from them. Some patients might not respond well to conventional therapy. These patients frequently have few options left to them. For this reason, scientists have investigated using stem cells to treat depression.

Stem Cells in the Brain

Once upon a time, scientists thought that a brain cell could not be regenerated or rejuvenated once it had died. However, stem cells were only discovered in the hippocampus of the brain 20 years ago by experts. The regulation of mood, memory, and learning are all functions of this area of the brain.

The stem cells are located in a significant pool in the hippocampus, which is the problem. The brain might be able to totally repair and get rid of any illnesses, such as depression, if stem cells were present across the entire brain. According to researchers, stem cells may contribute to the brain’s continued optimal performance.

These stem cells are thought to have the potential to lessen depression. More neurons could be produced by the stem cells, increasing the number of connections in the brain. Antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy are two examples of modern therapies that urge stem cells to divide and produce new neurons. Exercise also has a comparable impact on the brain, according to researchers.

However, the brain’s deficiency of neurons or neurotransmitters may not be corrected by exercise or other treatments if stem cell proliferation is not sufficiently stimulated. The hippocampus may no longer contain sufficient stem cells to repair the brain’s damage. For this reason, researchers have investigated the use of stem cell therapy to treat a variety of psychological diseases, including depression.

Stem Cell Therapy For Depression

Stem cells have a remarkable ability to promote cell regeneration and lower inflammation throughout the body. Numerous anti-inflammatory and growth substances are released by stem cells everywhere they go. Intravenously administered stem cells may help a patient whose depression is caused by elevated levels of inflammation. Evidence suggested that this treatment helped mice with depression.

Researchers have extensively discussed the idea of infusing stem cells right into the hippocampus. A tempting possibility to lessen the symptoms of depression is to inject more potent stem cells. New neurons could grow all over the brain as a result of the recently injected stem cells.

Another possible therapy could activate the hippocampus’ stem cells, enabling the brain to generate new neurons. A medication might then be used to stimulate the stem cells once they have been implanted in the brain’s hippocampus. Newly transplanted stem cells would have a much better chance of developing new brain neurons and mending any harm that had already been done.

Fortunately, stem cells may provide some hope to people who suffer from depression. New therapy modalities are being developed thanks to stem cells, which the medical world had no idea was possible. It might be only a matter of time before stem cells can be used to treat depression in people.


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  2. do Prado-Lima PAS, Costa-Ferro ZSM, Souza BSF, da Cruz IBM, Lab B. Is there a place for cellular therapy in depression? World J Psychiatry. 2021 Sep 19;11(9):553-567. doi: 10.5498/wjp.v11.i9.553. PMID: 34631460; PMCID: PMC8474995
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