Skip to comments.Stem Cells May Reverse Brain Injury and Restore Memory
Posted on 11/26/2007 9:42:02 PM PST by Coleus
Memories help construct lives and life experienceswithout them, living life would be nearly impossible. Alzheimers and Parkinsons diseases are debilitating illnesses capable of ruining victims lives and inflicting pain and sadness on their families. Recent findings at UC Irvine show that the use of stem cells can reverse memory loss after brain injuries and diseases, such as Alzheimers.
This study can very well benefit people with diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, as well as physical brain injuries and neuron loss, if it becomes transferable to humans, said Debbie Morisette, a stereologist working on the study. But as of right now, we dont think it will benefit cancer patients, though it is not impossible it could be used as therapy.
The stem cells used in the research are not embryonic, meaning that they do not come from unborn fetuses. Instead, the stem cells come from fully developed organs, such as those donated by people who died in car accidents. Embryonic stem cells are much like lumps of clay waiting to be molded. While embryonic stem cells can develop into anything, adult stem cells have already begun to move down a particular pathway and can only develop into certain types of cellsin this case, neural (brain) stem cells. These adult stem cells create little to no controversy and, as a result, scientists have encountered little ethical protest, allowing them to focus on their study.
It depends on funding and progress, said Matthew Blurton-Jones, a UCI neuroscientist heading the research. But realistically, Id say it would take about five to 10 years for this research to become transferable to humans. Scientists used a carefully-bred and maintained group of mice to test the research. They destroyed neurons in the hippocampus to create memory loss and recorded the mices performance on a series of memory-related tests.
The mice were then injected with neural stem cells and retested. In most cases, the mice tested after stem cell injection scored much higher than they did with memory impairment, almost as high as healthy mice. Contrary to initial inference, the number of neurons did not increase very much after the injections, only by about 7 percent. It turns out that the rest of the stem cells turned into memory-supporting cells, such as astrocytes, which promote neural survival and connectivity, and oligodendrocytes, which insulate neural connections. A popular hypothesis is that these supporting cells help create stronger and newer connections between existing neurons.
The scientists may have high hopes for this new research, but they are by no means disregarding the possible drawbacks. We have a lot left to study, explained Misashi Kitazawa, a toxicologist working on the study. Stem cells multiply and rebuild, so there are many possibilities. They may create tumors, they may not. The research is very costly, but it is not the cost of the stem cells that weighs heaviest on the budget.
The research as a whole has probably cost somewhere between $500,000 to $750,000, Blurton-Jones said. Each tiny vial of stem cells costs around $300 to $400, but the animal costs and maintaining of the mice are the most expensive. Trita Yamasaki, another head scientist working on the study, is in control of breeding the mice to produce the desired characteristics. Yamasaki is also one of the scientists who spearheaded the study along with UCI professor of neurobiology and behavior Frank LaFerla, but neither could be reached for comment.
Even non-medical students around campus seem to support the research. Im all for it, said Saman Mohseni, a second-year psychology major. With the right amount of technology, anything can happen. While the research is not 100 percent guaranteed to succeed, others are hopeful that humans will one day be able to use it.
[This is] some very promising research, said Diego Kapelusznik, a second-year political science major. If it has even a slight chance that it might cure diseases like Alzheimers, then its worth a try. With the potential advent of neural stem cells available as a memory-enhancing drug, brain injuries and diseases will be easier to cope with for both the victim and their loved ones. Neural stem cell research provides some very promising possibilities, but it will be quite a while before we see it enter the realm of the human brain.
The stem cells used in the research are not embryonic
Hmmm... I wonder if stem cells could make my cat sing Puccini arias? Now that would be something.
I’m hoping and looking forward to stem cell research and/or cures curing or fixing my tinitus. It would be nice to experience total quiet again someday.
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