You have probably heard about stem cells and their healing properties. The stem cell lives in human tissue and can regenerate itself. There is a growing body of evidence that stem cells can heal. Scientists are still researching, but they have found the healing properties of stem cells in bone marrow particularly effective for transplants; for 40 years these tiny structures have been used to help patients. Now there is a new study that suggests these cells may help curb alcohol addiction.
This article explores the result of a recent study that offers interesting insights into stem cell therapy as a possible treatment for alcohol addiction. How might this impact addiction treatment in the future?
Alcohol Addiction Cured by Stem Cell Therapy?
A 2017 study on rats revealed that a certain type of adult stem cell called mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) show promise for curbing alcohol use disorders. The study noted that chronic alcohol use causes inflammation and neurodegeneration that scientists believe contribute to the disease of alcoholism. This early study seemed to show that rats bred to consume high quantities of alcohol curbed their consumption when injected with MSCs. Within 48-hours, rats receiving an IV of MSC reduced their alcohol consumption by 90 percent. Neurological inflammation, which has been linked to the disease of alcoholism, was reduced. Even better, the effect lasted between three and five weeks after just one IV.
Initially, scientists administered the MSCs invasively directly into the brain of rats, which certainly is not as appealing in human subjects. Scientists learned to break down the larger MSCs into smaller shapes that can be injected through an IV.
Scientists are now hypothesizing that MSCs will have several positive effects on alcohol use disorder. For now, they are not willing to say these effects will pass to humans; it is just too early to tell. However, they are surmising from the study that MSCs:
- Can survive in, at a minimum, the brain of rats that were bred to chronically consume alcohol.
- Can inhibit “relapse-drinking,” which includes consumption of large volumes of alcohol.
- Does not affect water retention in the body or weight gain.
These are exciting findings for a disease that takes the lives of one in 10 working adults in the U.S. every year. The disease has been shown to increase inflammation, as does the perpetual use of other drugs like meth, opiates, and cocaine. Studies show that substance use relapse is tied to higher inflammation in the body.
Implications for Alcohol Addiction
The disease of alcohol addiction is complex, affecting people both mentally and physically. That is why Washington State addiction treatment resources are geared both toward the physical symptoms of alcohol addiction as well as the emotional and behavioral components that create the craving for alcohol.
While this study on stem cells is an incredibly important first step, it will only serve as the starting point for a new body of research that will further test the capabilities of human stem cells to help the body heal itself. For now, if you or a loved one are struggling with the disease of alcohol addiction, the best first step is to contact us.