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NIH Study Brings Dead Brain Tissue Back To Life


In a study funded by the National Institute of Health, scientists demonstrated a revolutionary technique that has significantly increased the production of nerve cells in mice with stroke-induced brain damage.

Once a brain cell dies, there’s no bringing it back to life.

There are reportedly ways to help stimulate neurogenesis (the growth of new brain cells), such as by running or eating more omega 3 fatty acids, but this advice is more suited to getting a few extra points on your SATs exam than recovering from a neurological injury.

When it comes to treating a particularly damaged brain, such as those seen in stroke-induced injuries, scientists and clinicians have been working hard to find a way to boost new nerve cell production. And in the NIH-funded study published in the scientific journal Nature Medicine, researchers may have just brought this goal much closer to reality.

Regenerating The Injured Brain

“This USC-led animal study could pave the way for a potential breakthrough in how we treat people who have experienced a stroke…If the therapy works in humans, it could markedly accelerate the recovery of these patients.” —Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

The therapeutic technique consists of a combination of two individual methods which have already shown promise in the treatment of stroke-induced neurological injury.

According to the NIH, the first method involves inserting stem cells next to the dead tissue, where they mature and become neurons and other brain cells. The second method encourages this process with several infusions of ‘3K3A-APC’, a human protein-derived compound known for its ability to help the growth of neural stem cells.

Before the study, it was unknown what effect 3K3A-APC would have in animal models, having only previously been tested in the lab. But just a month after receiving the treatments, the mice performed significantly better on tests of motor and sensory functions, in comparison to control groups which received neither or only one of the treatments.

“That means the transplanted cells are being functionally integrated into the host’s brain after treatment with 3K3A-APC…No one in the stroke field has ever shown this, so I believe this is going to be the gold standard for future studies.” —Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., the University of Southern California

Lead researcher of the study Dr. Zlokovic, is now planning a Phase II clinical trial to attempt to replicate the results in human stroke patients. Providing he sees success, there may be opportunities to test the effects of the promising combination treatment in other neurological conditions such as spinal cord injuries, MS, and dementia.

The study was funded by the NIH’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), along with several other organisations including the New York State Stem Cell Research Board and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

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