Depression is more prevalent than ever throughout all societies in the world. About 264 million people suffer from depression around the world. There are about 17 million people who suffered from a depressive episode yearly. Two times as many women as men will suffer from major depressive disorder. Psychological disorders are often not taken as seriously as physical disorders as they are not visible to the human eye.
Unfortunately, these diseases and conditions are real and can have huge impacts on patient lives. Major depressive disorder is one of those conditions. Depression can completely ruin a patient’s quality of life. Depression can take a person from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. The activities, people, and food they once enjoyed no longer are fulfilling. Even worse, depression can come on suddenly with no warning.
The treatment options for major depressive disorder are rather limited and often do not treat the underlying issues. Patients often have to attempt several medications or treatments before they find one that will treat their symptoms. Many patients are stuck with a medication prescription for their entire lives. These limitations have pushed researchers to look at alternative treatments and medications.
Thankfully, stem cells may offer some hope to patients that suffer from major depressive disorder. Stem cells have shown great therapeutic potential for a variety of diseases and conditions. Now stem cells are beginning to show that same potential for major depressive disorder. Before we discuss the potential new treatments, let’s discuss the illness to get a better understanding of how stem cells can help.
What Is Major Depressive Disorder?
Major depressive disorder is more commonly referred to as depression. The condition affects the way that the mind functions and can completely change the way a patient feels, acts, and thinks. Depression can affect patients of all ages. Major depressive disorder can be a lingering condition or come in episodes. Depressive episodes can last a few weeks or an entire lifetime.
Some of the most common symptoms are:
- Thoughts of death or suicide
- Low energy and/or fatigue
- Difficulty concentrating
- Loss of interest in hobbies and activities
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
The symptoms will vary between patients as there are countless factors that can affect the mind and brain. The brain is an incredibly complex organ that researchers have spent decades and decades studying. Researchers have been attempting to understand exactly what causes major depressive disorder.
What Causes Depression?
There are a number of factors that contribute to depression. Researchers are not entirely sure what the underlying cause of major depressive disorder is, but there are few similarities that researchers have noted. The following factors increase a patient’s risk of depression.
Brain Chemistry & Structure
Another potential contributing factor is the neurotransmitters in the brain. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals that are responsible for transmitting a message across a neuron. If the neurotransmitters are not functioning properly, then there is a chance that your brain is not receiving the commands that it needs to. This could lead to the development of depression. Often patients with depression have a less active frontal lobe, which could be a contributing factor.
Emotional or physical trauma can cause depression in patients. Traumatic memories can continue to cause depression in patients. Childhood emotional trauma can result in depression later in life. Some researchers have theorized that emotional trauma can alter the structure or chemistry of the brain.
A lack or excess of hormones can cause depression for a number of reasons. Postpartum depression is a common occurrence for new mothers. A large percentage of the hormones that were present during pregnancy are no longer present in the patient’s body. This change in hormones could easily result in the development of postpartum depression. Additionally, being a new mother can cause emotional distress.
Unfortunately, if your family has a history of depression then you are more likely to suffer from the condition. Researchers do not completely understand why genetics play a part in a patient’s chance of developing depression. Some researchers theorize that there is a depression gene that a patient can inherit from their parents. A massive genetic analysis of 2 million people identified 102 depression-linked genetic variants and 269 genes.
Recent research has shown that there is a subset of patients who suffer from depression due to a heightened level of inflammation. The brain might become inflamed, which could lead to a reduction in the effectiveness of neurons and neurotransmitters. This new research suggests that treating the inflammation could actually improve depression symptoms.
Current Treatment Methods
Patients few treatment options when it comes to treating major depressive disorder. Many patients will find success with these treatments, but unfortunately it will not work for all patients with depression.
One of the most common treatments for depression is therapy. Therapy can help some patients relieve some trauma-related depression symptoms. Patients can work through their issues and trauma by recognizing the problems and changing the negative thinking into positive thinking. This treatment has been shown to be effective at treating patients with depression. Therapy can last for just a few weeks or a lifetime. Some patients only need a few therapy sessions to relieve their depression and work through their issues.
If therapy does not work, many medical professionals will recommend a long or short term medication. Antidepressants have shown that they can treat depression symptoms. This type of medication actually helps to modify a patient’s brain chemistry. Antidepressants are usually taken orally everyday. The effects of the medication often takes a few weeks to a couple of months to take hold. Medication is often used in conjunction with therapy to treat all of the symptoms of depression.
Many health professionals will recommend exercise to patients that are struggling with depression. Exercise eliminates stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, while elevating levels of endorphins, a chemical in the brain. Endorphins help to elevate and regulate moods, reduce stress, and are a natural painkiller. Healthy eating may also help patients with depression.
There are some patients who do not respond to traditional treatment. These patients are often left with few options. That is why researchers have looked at stem cells to treat patients who
Stem Cells In The Brain
Researchers were not always sure that stem cells were in the brain. The original theory was that once a brain cell died it could not be replaced or revived. That all changed when about 20 years ago researchers found stem cells in the brain. However, stem cells are not found throughout the brain; they are exclusively found in the hippocampus. This part of the brain is in charge of learning, memory, and mood regulation.
The issue is that the stem cells are in a large reservoir in the hippocampus. If stem cells were located throughout the brain, the brain might be able to heal itself completely and rid itself of any diseases, such as major depressive disorder. Researchers believe that the stem cells help to keep the brain running in top form.
Additionally, these stem cells may contribute to a decrease in depression. The stem cells have the ability to create more neurons, which would result in more connections in the brain. Current treatments such as antidepressants and electroconvulsive therapy all encourage the stem cells to divide and create more neurons. Researchers have noted that exercise creates a similar effect in the brain as well.
Still, exercise or other treatments may not stimulate enough stem cell growth in the brain to fix the lack of neurons or neurotransmitters. There may not be enough stem cells left in the hippocampus in order to repair the damage in the brain. That is why researchers have looked at stem cell treatment in order to treat various psychological disorders, such as major depressive disorder.
Stem Cell Therapy For Depression
Stem cells are incredible at reducing inflammation throughout the body. They are also incredible at promoting cell regeneration. Stem cells release a number of anti-inflammatory and growth factors wherever they go. This made stem cells an incredibly attractive option for patients with depression. The hope was that stem cells could improve the brain’s condition and reduce the symptoms of depression.
If a patient is suffering depression from heightened levels of inflammation, then intravenously injected stem cells could improve their condition. A small study on mice showed that stem cells can reduce brain inflammation. The researchers injected stem cells into the mice and within three weeks the brain inflammation had drastically reduced. The same type of therapy could be used to fight inflammation in patients with depression.
Researchers have also actively discussed injecting stem cells directly into the hippocampus. In older patients, stem cells in the hippocampus are not as potent as stem cells in younger patients. Injecting stem cells that have more potency is an attractive option to improve depression symptoms. The newly injected stem cells could create new neurons throughout the brain.
Another potential treatment option could stimulate the stem cells in the hippocampus and give the brain the ability to create new neurons. This treatment is actually an oral medication.
A Stem Cell Oral Medication
A small study showcased the potential of a stem cell medication to treat major depressive disorder. A small molecule drug showed the potential of the treatment of major depressive disorder. The drug showed that it can stimulate the stem cells in the hippocampus and encourage them to grow new neurons. The study was so promising that researchers were given clearance to create a larger trial.
220 patients were given 40 mg, 80 mg, or a placebo daily over the course of 12 weeks. The goal of the trial was to see if depression symptoms were reduced while cognitive function improved. All three self-reported measures of depression and cognitive ability improved at some point in the trial for patients. Unfortunately, the trial showed that there was no clinically significant difference between the medication and the placebo.
The potential issue could be that the stem cells in the brain simply are not strong or young enough to repair the damage in the brain. As a patient ages, the stem cells in their body are not as potent as when they were younger. An oral medication would be an attractive type of treatment for the general public as it would not require an invasive treatment. It remains to be seen if stem cells can be stimulated through an oral medication.
This medication could be used in conjunction with a stem cell injection or treatment. The stem cells could be implanted into the hippocampus in the brain and then they could be stimulated by the medication. The newly implanted stem cells would have a much better chance of creating new neurons in the brain and repairing whatever damage had occurred.
Stem Cells Therapy Via The Spine
BioXcellerator uses a treatment method that administers stem cells via a spinal tap, which should be a more potent treatment method than simple IV administered stem cells. When stem cells are administered via a spinal tap, there are more stem cells that cross the blood brain barrier. This may help to reduce brain inflammation and promote the production of stem cells in the hippocampus. This treatment method could help some of the underlying treatments of depression.
Golden Stem Cells
Many stem cell clinics do not have stringent criteria on what stem cells they use in their treatments. BioXcellerator only utilizes the best of the best when it comes to stem cells. Our team utilizes a strict, thorough process and set of criteria to evaluate and find the most effective and potent stem cells. These ‘golden cells’ ensure that BioXcellerator will have the most healing and effective stem cell treatments available.
Stem cells are creating new treatment methods that the medical community never believed was possible. It will likely be only a matter of time before stem cells become a viable treatment method for patients with depression. Reach out to your healthcare provider today to learn more about potential treatment options in regards to major depressive disorder.