The term neurodegeneration encompasses a broad range of diseases of central and peripheral nervous system. It’s only in less than 5% of the cases a clear genetic link has been established, however, majority is sporadic and driven by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s are the most common and renowned disorders that largely affect the elderly population. However, neural degeneration and associated loss of memory in these diseases is not a normal part of ageing as it occurs only in few, not all elderly people. It is considered that neurodegeneration is a generalized systemic disorder that also inflicts other organs, although it is most pervasive in neurons. Interestingly, it is not cell-autonomous, that means multiple cell types such as astrocytes, oligodendroglia, Schwann cells etc. are also involved. Thus investigating the cause of neurodegeneration at the cellular and sub-cellular levels is most challenging. Since initially only few cells are involved, it is impossible to access those cells in human and animal models. The post-mortem tissue although relevant but offer only retrospective indicator of disease. The current modalities are only symptomatic treatment with no cure in horizon. Therefore, therapeutic interventions for neurodegenerative diseases remain the most daunting task today. The emerging new technology like stem cells based therapeutics can offer some respite and is becoming an active area of research.
Kuldip S Sidhu