The older we get, the more difficult we find it to remember everything and learn new things. It may be as simple as forgetting the keys on the way out to the car or forgetting the name of the person that you shared your first kiss. Memories enable us to navigate our everyday lives and connect with other people.
Some people even say that memories are what make us feel human. The pain of memory loss can cause severe emotional distress in even the strongest patients. Seeing a family member and not recognizing them is an extremely confusing and distressing experience. Once permanent memory loss begins to occur, it is difficult to reverse. Memory loss can be complete, partial, permanent, or temporary.
The medical community has mostly failed to develop adequate therapies and treatments for most memory-related issues. For some conditions, such as amnesia, the only answer is to wait and hope that patient memories will return. With a growing aging population, the medical community needs to develop new therapies and treatments to address memory-related medical issues.
Stem cell therapy may hold the answers to treating various memory disorders. The power of regenerative medicine may be able to restore patient access to memories and prevent further degradation. Before we discuss how stem cell therapy could revolutionize the way that memory-related problems are treated, let’s start with the basics of memory.
What Is Memory?
Memory is the ability of the brain to understand, evaluate, store and recall information that one experiences. Simply put, memory is a set of connections between various neurons in the brain. Some memories last just a few seconds, while other memories can last an entire lifetime.
Memories influence a lot of the current behavior that an individual engages in. For example, the memory of a delicious cheeseburger from a local burger joint could influence a person’s decision on where to go for dinner. Memory is fundamental to everyday life. Your memory helps you drive to work, remember your significant other’s name, how to read and write, and countless other tasks. Memory is an extremely complex process that is not fully understood by the medical community.
There are three major processes that define memory: encoding, storage, and retrieval.
The first step in memory creation is encoding. When a person experiences anything in the real world, such as walking through the park, they will experience a number of sensory inputs. In order for the brain to interpret these sensory inputs, the information must be modified in the brain in a certain way, so that it can be stored in the brain. There are some instances where patients can experience false encoding, which can lead to the process of creating a fake memory.
Once the sensory information is translated into a more suitable form, the brain will be able to store the information.
The brain can store an incredible amount of information. No researchers are entirely sure how much information the brain can hold, but it likely has the computational and memory power greater than any computer currently in existence. All of the 100 billion neurons in the brain add up to a certain memory capacity, but it is of debate how much that is.
Life experiences and skillsets can be stored in the brain so that they can be called later in life when needed. Researchers are not entirely sure exactly how different memories and information are stored throughout the brain There are a few theories about how the process works and what types of memory are stored in what parts of the brain.
Once the information is stored securely in the brain, the brain will recall the information when it is needed.
The final process of memory is retrieval. There are two basic types of retrieval that are used depending on the situation. A recall occurs when the information stored in the brain is retrieved without any cues, such as answering a fill-in-the-blank question on a test. The brain relies on memories that are stored as information and do not rely on any outside stimulus.
Recognition occurs when someone is presented with a stimulus that provides a cue to information that has been seen before. When the brain encounters a familiar environment, it will recall that information in order to evaluate the environment and influence decisions.
Why Do We Lose Memory Abilities As We Age?
The way that memory is encoded, stored, and retrieved can all become damaged, which can significantly affect memory abilities. A knock to the head can result in memory loss or complete memory loss. Even if a patient is able to avoid any injuries to various memory mechanisms, old age will eventually reduce memory function. The scientific community does not fully understand all the mechanisms behind why our memories become more difficult to remember as we age. Researchers believe that there are three primary reasons that memory begins to decline with old age.
The first reason is that the hippocampus begins to decline in size with age. The hippocampus in the brain appears to play a large role in memory function. Memory consolidation, memory transfer, and spatial memory are all reliant on the hippocampus. Short-term memories are turned into long-term memories in the hippocampus and then stored elsewhere in the brain. Any damage to the hippocampus can affect a patient’s ability to form new memories and navigate the world.
Hormones and proteins that repair damaged neurons and stimulate new neuron growth decline with age. Researchers have found that as patients age, the number of stem cells that are present in the brain declines. Stem cells in the brain are primarily located in the hippocampus. Stem cells are the building blocks of the body and allow for the creation of new cells. This is true for neurons that are located in the brain that are responsible for various memory functions. The hippocampus is one of the only places in the brain where new cells are formed.
Older patients begin to experience a decreased amount of blood that flows to the brain. Even though the brain is just about 2% of body mass, the brain uses about 20% of the blood flow and oxygen in your body. Blood flow keeps neurons in the brain alive and ensures consistent delivery of oxygen and nutrients. Additionally, two arteries are responsible for blood delivery to the hippocampus. If any of the two arteries suffer damage or micro-bleeding, then the hippocampus may shrink or become damaged, which would lead to memory loss.
Another theory is that inflammation causes memory loss in patients. Older patients are much more likely to have a chronic inflammatory condition that causes inflammation in various places throughout the body. Inflammation can damage joints, internal organs, tissues, and cells. Some researchers believe that chronic inflammation in the brain can cause memory loss and cognitive decline. Inflammation may disrupt the memory processes throughout the brain.
A large clinical study may showcase that chronic inflammation could be a potential contributor to memory loss. The study followed 12,236 patients between the ages of 45 and 65 for 20 years and evaluated key biomarkers of inflammation. The patients that had the highest levels of these inflammatory biomarkers also had the biggest declines in memory and cognitive ability. Researchers used to discount the effect of inflammation on memory, but this study showcases that inflammation may play a bigger role in memory loss than previously thought.
Whatever the reason for the age-related memory loss, there are some ways that a patient can slow cognitive decline.
Are There Ways To Prevent Memory Loss?
Researchers have been actively looking for ways to improve memory function in all types of patients. The medical community has found a few ways that patients can take in order to slow memory loss.
Keep The Mind Active
Doctors will encourage older patients who are experiencing memory loss to keep their minds more active. Actively engaging the mind and memory function may utilize neurotransmitters across the brain, which could improve neuron function. One study on 42 patients with cognitive impairment found that playing brain-training games for eight hours a day improved memory performance in just four weeks.
Now everyone might not have eight hours a day, but everyone has at least 15 minutes they can devote. A study of 4,715 patients found that short-term memory and working memory both improved by playing 15 minutes of brain-training games for at least five days a week. Brain games also have been found to decrease dementia levels in older patients.
The medical community also believes that diet can play a factor in a patient’s memory function. What you put in your body affects the balance of your brain. Fruits and vegetables are full of brain-boosting factors that can improve memory function. Fish oil supplements contain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which could improve the ability of the brain to create stem cells.
The health of the brain does appear to respond to aerobic exercise. The elevated levels of oxygen and hormones released during exercise could improve memory function. Aerobic exercise may increase the blood flow to the brain, which increases the necessary nutrients, oxygen levels, and hormones that improve memory function. This claim has been backed up by some research.
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh studied a group of 120 older patients over the span of a year. One group performed a stretching class three times a week, while the other group performed aerobic exercise three times a week. The researchers measured the size of the hippocampus at the beginning and end of the trial, as well as measured memory function.
The results were extremely promising. The group of patients that performed aerobic workouts three times a week had improved memory functions and increased the size of their hippocampus. Researchers believe that the increase in hippocampus size increased the number of stem cells in the hippocampus, which resulted in the growth of new neurons. The new neurons were able to contribute to improved memory function.
There are two types of medication that have been approved for memory loss and cognitive decline. Cholinesterase inhibitors are usually prescribed when a patient has a mild case of dementia or in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Researchers believe that cholinesterase inhibitors prevent a chemical in the brain called acetylcholine from breaking down. This chemical functions as a neurotransmitter and is important in various memory functions, such as learning.
The other medication type is memantine. This medication is usually only prescribed when patients with Alzheimer’s progress to a more serious stage of the disease. Memantine may be able to help patients improve memory, attention, language, and reasoning. This medication helps to balance another neurotransmitter called glutamate. This chemical is responsible for sending signals between nerve cells and is important in memory.
Unfortunately, even with healthy living and medication, memory ability will still decline over the course of a patient’s life. Symptoms typically get worse as patients age. There are no known cures for memory loss. Researchers believe that stem cell therapy could improve memory capabilities in older patients.
Stem Cell Therapy And Memory
Stem cell therapy is one of the most rapidly growing areas of research in terms of therapeutic treatments. There is a strong chance that stem cells will be involved in the treatment of memory loss sometime in the future. Stem cells have an attractive number of properties that can solve the underlying problems that cause memory loss.
Stem cells can encourage the body to repair damaged cells and tissues. Stem cells release regenerative healing factors that signal the body to regenerate. Whether the stem cells are repairing damage in the hippocampus, the arteries leading to the hippocampus, or another part of the brain, stem cells can replace damaged tissues and cells. This could lead to improved memory function in patients with memory loss.
Additionally, stem cells have anti-inflammatory capabilities that have been demonstrated in countless studies. Stem cells play a part in the immune system and can prevent additional inflammation from taking place in the brain. The combined properties of stem cells make them an attractive candidate for treating memory loss.
Researchers have already found that stem cells may be helpful in treating memory diseases, such as Alzheimer’s. A fair amount of research is continuing to showcase that stem cells may be beneficial for patients that are experiencing age-related memory loss.
A number of studies have been published in the past decade or so that have investigated the use of stem cells on patients with memory problems. This area of research will continue to evolve and therapy will likely be developed that is based around stem cells.
Researchers at the Center for Regenerative Therapies of TU Dresden were interested in exploring how stem cells affect memory. As we age we find it more difficult to learn to navigate in a new environment. Older patients have more difficulty creating a cognitive map of the environment as compared to younger patients. Instead, older patients need to rely on a series of turns and movements to reach this destination. While this may seem similar, older patients will have difficulty navigating to the same destination when starting from a different part of the same environment.
Mice suffer from the same cognitive decline and the researchers were exploring whether increasing the number of stem cells in the brain would make a difference in their navigation abilities. The researchers implanted additional stem cells into the hippocampus of the mice and tested their navigational abilities. The older group of mice whose navigational abilities had declined had recovered their ability to create a map of the environment and they were able to remember that map for a longer period of time.
In younger mice, the group also experienced a boost to memory and cognitive function. The younger group did not experience a cognitive decline similar to the group of young mice that did not receive a stem cell transplant. The beneficial effects of the stem cells were not short-lived, they lasted the entire duration of the mice’s short life.
The additional neurons that the added stem cells created helped both the younger and older mice with developing maps for new environments. Stem cells have the capability to increase the number of neurons present in the brain, which improves memory function. Overall the study found that stem cells were able to increase the learning abilities and memory capacity of old mice.
Additional stem cell research shows that stem cells have the potential to reduce chronic inflammation in the brain. One study looked at how traumatic brain injuries cause chronic inflammation in the brain and memory loss. Researchers from the University of California wanted to investigate how stem cells can potentially help patients with traumatic brain injuries recover and prevent memory problems.
The researchers implanted cells into the hippocampus of mice that had traumatic brain injuries. Once the cells were transplanted into the target area, the researchers found that they migrated to the injured area. The cells then formed new connections with the damaged brain cells and continued to heal the damaged area.
Just one month after receiving the treatment, the mice had significant memory improvements. The mice were able to tell the difference between a box associated with an unpleasant memory and one with no memory. They performed at the same level as the mice with no traumatic brain injury. Even though the neurons in the brain could not be saved from dying, growing new neurons is an exciting development.
Researchers believe that the transplanted stem cells are able to survive the inflammatory conditions that were present in the hippocampus as compared to the cells that were currently present. The transplanted stem cells may be able to reduce the inflammation level present in the brain and encourage the growth of new neurons.
Whether stem cells reduce memory loss in the brain by reducing inflammation or helping to create new neurons or both, it is clear that stem cells play a key part in memory functionality. Increasing stem cell count through stem cell therapy or other means should improve memory abilities in older patients.
The BioXcellerator team has treated a number of patients at our facility in Medellin, Colombia for a variety of conditions.
The quality of stem cell treatments has often been the topic of discussion when patients are learning more about stem cell therapy. There have been several reports of stem cell clinics that are using suboptimal stem cells in their treatments. One stem cell organization was even selling stem cells that were not alive! The BioXcellerator team heard this call and we took it upon ourselves to develop a stem cell quality process that is the best in the world.
At BioXcellerator, we utilize a comprehensive, rigorous testing and vetting process that separates strong stem cells from weak stem cells. This process is based upon the strictest standards and quality measures for stem cells in the world. We took these standards and pushed them even further. A result is a group of stem cells that are extremely potent and have the best properties. We call these stem cells ‘golden cells.’
This ensures that our patients are only receiving stem cells that are of the highest quality. We believe that golden cells will facilitate better patient outcomes and improve our patients’ quality of life. Patients who are struggling with memory may be able to relieve some of their symptoms by utilizing golden cells. The future of stem cell therapy for memory-related issues and diseases is extremely promising.
Reach out to your healthcare provider today to learn more about potential treatment methods for your memory issues. There are many steps that you can personally take to improve your lifestyle, but that may not always be enough to prevent long-term memory decline. Stem cell therapy one day may be able to treat a variety of memory-related problems and conditions.