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Posts tagged ‘Stem cells’

SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . Repair of Neural Circuits in Stroke-damaged Mouse Brains


Repair of Neural Circuits in Stroke-damaged Mouse Brains

presented by

Donna O’Donnell Figurski



newsboy-thBasic research on the repair of damaged mouse brains has again produced a potential breakthrough for human therapy. The research may accelerate our ability to repair damaged human brains. A trial study for using this therapy in humans is now being designed.

I’ve already written about the extraordinary promise of cell therapy in eliminating or greatly reducing the effects of brain damage. Much of this promise has to do with the discovery of stem cells, which have the stunning ability to develop into virtually any kind of cell. (The previous NewsBit, however, showed that scientists found a way to cause a common cell type to develop into functional neurons directly without going through a stem-cell stage.) In a study earlier this year, scientists showed that stem cells surgically implanted into damaged human brains reduced the severity of symptoms. But in that study, the scientists were surprised to find that the added stem cells themselves did not become new neurons and form new circuits, but they somehow revved up the brain’s natural ability to heal itself.animal-cell-hi

Now scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) with help from scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have found a way to activate the implanted stem cells so they develop into neurons and become part of new neural circuits. The direct involvement of the added stem cells resulted in enhanced repair and a much greater loss of symptoms. One NIH scientist said, “If the therapy works in humans, it could markedly accelerate the recovery of these patients.”

CellScientists had previously shown that an FDA (Food and Drug Administration)-approved reagent, the engineered protein 3K3A-APC, caused stem cells in culture to become neurons. The USC scientists wanted to see if 3K3A-APC would help the recovery of a brain-injured animal. The model used for brain damage was mice that were induced to have a stroke. The scientists implanted human stem cells and then treated the mice with 3K3A-APC or a placebo (mock-3K3A-APC). Mice that were treated with stem cells + 3K3A-APC did markedly better (some were almost normal) in tests of sensory perception and motor skills than did mice that were treated with stem cells + the placebo. Unlike the earlier study in which the added stem cells did not become neurons, these stem cells did become neurons if the mouse had been treated with 3K3A-APC.

ScientistThe human stem cells not only became neurons, but they also formed normal connections with mouse neurons. Because the implanted cells were human, the scientists were able to use a human-specific toxin to kill only the implanted cells (the mouse cells were resistant to the toxin). When scientists killed the new neurons, the mice lost the signs of recovery. The scientists concluded that 3K3A-APC caused the cells to develop into neurons that then formed functional neural circuits, ultimately leading to recovery.Brain Cell

USC physician-scientist Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., who directed the research, said, “When you give these mice 3K3A-APC, it works much better than stem cells alone. We showed that 3K3A-APC helps the cells convert into neurons and make structural and functional connections with the host’s nervous system.” (Full story)


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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . The Future of Treatment for Brain Injuries – New Brain Tissue From Special Cells

The Future of Treatment for Brain Injuries – New Brain Tissue From Special Cells

Newsboy thResearch on synthesis and regeneration of brain tissue is advancing rapidly. Here are four recent news reports on current research (1, 2, 3, 4) that predict that the near future of medicine will seem like science fiction.

Why is there so much excitement? Neuroscientists have found that the answer to regenerating brain tissue lies in the enormous potential of “stem cells.” Each of your organs, including the brain, has a reservoir of special cells (“stem cells”) that can regenerate the tissue of that organ. Since all cells of the body have exactly the same DNA (or blueprint for the cell), the cells of different tissues are formed by activating different subsets of the DNA. (Think of the cells of different tissues as running different programs.) The reports discuss ways to make neural stem cells, how stem cells reproduce, and how implanting neural stem cells into the brain is already controlling or curing diseases of the brains of animals. When neural stem cells are implanted into the brain (a relatively simple surgical procedure), they become whichever cells are needed to replace old, missing, or damaged brain cells. In this way, the brain essentially heals itself. The additional (i.e., implanted) stem cells help a natural process. Some of the experiments have been done in mice (see my previous explanation of why the mouse is a good first model for humans), but soon the experiments will be done in humans. The current research predicts that repair of brain injury is not only possible, but is also likely to be done in the near future.

In paper #1, neuroscientists from the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University identified a molecule of neural stem cells (ganglioside GD3). GD3 is crucial for the ability of neural stem cells to reproduce and maintain a pool of healthy stem cells that can be used to replace old or damaged cells in the brain. Normally organ formation means that the cells are finished reproducing. They’re at a kind of “dead end” for cells. The ability to continuously reproduce is one of the amazing properties of stem cells. They’re part of the organ, yet they can reproduce and they can become any cell, so there is always a reservoir of stem cells ready to become any needed cell. In a major advance, the research team at the Medical College of Georgia showed in mice that the pool of neural stem cells in the part of the brain they examined was greatly reduced when the cells lacked ganglioside GD3, and the pool was restored when GD3 was present. The scientists want to figure out how to keep neural stem cells making abundant GD3. That way, there will always be plenty of neural stem cells to replace brain cells as needed.

Paper #2 describes groundbreaking research by neuroscientists at the Whitehead Institute of MIT. They were able to take the cells of fully developed tissue (cells that can no longer form new tissue and don’t reproduce) and turn them into neural stem cells that can reproduce and form new brain tissue. There are two exciting aspects of this research. First, the team was able to form “pluripotent” stem cells (i.e., cells able to form new tissue of any kind) directly from “mature” cells (i.e., cells of any fully developed organ) without requiring them to go through an undeveloped state normally seen only in the cells of early embryos before their development into our various tissues. Second, the necessary factors were introduced and turned on by a chemical. Once neural stem cells were formed, the chemical was removed, and the cells retained the properties of neural stem cells. This was the first time such a feat had been accomplished. It guarantees an abundance of neural stem cells that will be needed for transplantation therapy.

Paper #3 describes the research done at Lund University in Sweden. Parkinson’s Disease is a disease of the brain that causes movement problems. Millions of people worldwide have this affliction. It’s known that the Parkinson’s brain is deficient in the production of a chemical (dopamine) that is needed for proper movement. Neuroscientists derived dopamine-producing neurons from human stem cells. The dopamine-producing neurons were implanted into the brains of rats with a Parkinson’s-like disease. The synthetic neurons were specifically implanted into the region of the rat brain that controls movement. The implanted dopamine-producing neurons colonized the brain and led to normal levels of dopamine in the brain. As a result, the diseased rats had normal motor function.

Sixty-five million people worldwide are afflicted with epileptic seizures. About 1/3 are not helped by any medication. One highly regarded hypothesis is that the cause of seizures is due to a low number of seizure-inhibiting neurons (interneurons). Paper #4 tells of the research of neuroscientists at McLean Hospital in Massachusetts and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. They implanted seizure-inhibiting neurons into the brains of mice bred to have epileptic-like seizures. The seizure-inhibiting neurons were human cells derived from human stem cells. Fifty percent of the mice with the implanted cells no longer had seizures. The other 50% had a severely reduced number of seizures. The scientists showed that the human neurons integrated into the mouse brains and dampened the signals from the highly excited mouse neurons that lead to epileptic seizures. The next step is to find a way to purify the interneurons, so only seizure-inhibiting neurons would be implanted.

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SPEAK OUT! NewsBit . . . . . . . . . How Stem Cells Form Specific Tissues

How Stem Cells Form Specific Tissues

Stem cells have the potential to form any kind of tissue. But, they were only recently discovered, and research is in its early stages on this highly promising cell type. Exciting research at Case Western Reserve University has identified a type of genetic signal Newsboy ththat induces stem cells to form a specific tissue. The clinical implications are immense. It will eventually be possible to remove stem cells from an individual to avoid immune rejection and grow neural cells (for example) that can repair or replace damaged neurons. (Full story)



SPEAK OUT! NewsBits . . . . . . . . . . . Stem Cells, MS, and TBI – Strange Bedfellows

Stem Cells, MS, and TBI – Strange Bedfellows

Newsboy th

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is thought to cause weakness and paralysis by an immune reaction that attacks myelin, which forms a protective sheath around nerves. A surprising result was found after implanting human neural stem cells into the brains of mice with an MS-like disease. As expected, the human cells were rejected and disappeared within a week. But, the treated MS mice could now walk and continued to do so. Scientists believe that the human stem cells released a protein that signaled the mouse neurons to repair their myelin sheaths. This is great news for people with MS. But, what other signals were released? Might a released signal help damaged neurons of TBI survivors? The excitement over a signal means that you don’t have to implant cells. Once the signal is understood, it should be possible to design a therapeutic drug that does the same thing. (Full story and video)

SPEAK OUT! NewsBits . . . . . . . . . . . . Could This Help TBI Brains?

Newsboy thA new study by Stanford scientists has shown that blood from young mice can improve brain function in old mice. This simple experiment produced a surprise result. The scientists haven’t identified the factor (or factors) yet, but it is inactivated by heat. Earlier work from this lab showed that, after receiving blood from young mice, old mice produced more nerve cells than they did previously. One of the scientists formed a company to look at therapy for brain dysfunction, including Alzheimer’s Disease. (Full story)


Two soon-to-be-published studies by Harvard scientists show that GDF11, a protein found in both mice and humans, can improve muscle and brain. One idea is that GDF11 improves blood flow. Another idea (not necessarily exclusive of the first idea) is that GDF11 helps stem cells. Stem cells from muscle can form new muscle cells, whereas stem cells from the brain can form new neurons. Both muscle function and brain function were improved in old mice after GDF11 injections. Maybe the result of this research will be new therapeutic drugs for humans. The scientists are hopeful that funds will be available for establishing pre-clinical trials to test GDF11 in humans. (Full story)

SPEAK OUT! NewsBits ………………. Stem Cells from Teeth

Newsboy thStem Cells from Teeth Can Make Brain-like Cells

Exciting basic research from Australia could be relevant to TBI survivors. Scientists have isolated stem cells from teeth that can be induced to form neuron-like cells. Stem cells, which everybody has, have the potential to make new tissues and organs. Already stem cells are being used to repair damaged hearts in animals and to grow new cartilage in the laboratory that should eliminate joint pain in humans. It is thought that human life expectancy may be related to the number of stem cells in the body. The Australian scientists believe it is only a matter of time that the stem cells from teeth can be made into true neurons. The ability to insert into the body neurons or neuron complexes in the form of neuronal circuits could alleviate some of the problems brought on by TBI and stroke. (Full story)



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My name is Michelle Munt and this is my story about surviving a brain injury and what I continue to learn about it. This is for other survivors and their loved ones, but also to raise awareness of what can happen to those in an accident. This invisible injury too often goes undiagnosed and it can be difficult to find information about it. I will talk about things that have helped me as I continue to recover and invite others to see if it works for them too.

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