WASHINGTON - There is no known cure for diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s where the nerve system degenerates. But now there is hope as stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow may check advance of the disease.

Yoram Cohen of Tel Aviv University’s School of Chemistry has recently proved the viability of these innovative stem cells, called mesenchymal stem cells, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Cohen has been able to track their progress within the brain and initial studies indicate they can identify unhealthy or damaged tissues, migrate to them, and potentially repair or halt cell degeneration.

“By monitoring the motion of these cells, you get information about how viable they are, and how they can benefit the tissue,” he explained.

“We have been able to prove that these stem cells travel within the brain, and only travel where they are needed. They read the chemical signalling of the tissue, which indicate areas of stress. And then they go and try to repair the situation,” said Cohen.

The next step is to develop a real-life therapy for those suffering from neuro-degenerative diseases. The ultimate goal is to repair neuronal cells and tissues.

Stem cell therapy is thought to be the most promising future therapy to combat diseases such as Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and researchers may also be able to develop a therapy for stroke victims.

If post-stroke cell degeneration can be stopped at an early stage, said Cohen, patients can live for many years with a good quality of life.

His findings were reported in the journal Stem Cells.