In a study funded by the U.S. Department of Defense, a Clemson University scientist has apparently developed a gel to help the brain recover from traumatic injury. As reported in Popular Science and in other media, the gel (made up of both synthetic and natural sources) is injected in liquid form at the site of injury and stimulates the regeneration of neural stem cells. Dr. Ning Zhang, an assistant professor of bioengineering at Clemson, presented her findings to a conference on military health research.
To date, doctors have had limited results in attempting transplant donor brain cells into a wound to repair damaged brain tissue. In experiments on rats, however, Dr. Zhang was able to use the gel (which is loaded up with different chemicals to stimulate various biological processes) to help re-establish full blood supply at the site of brain injury to create a better environment for donor cells.
In a follow-up study, Dr. Zhang loaded the gel with immature stem cells, as well as the chemicals they needed to develop into full-fledged adult brain cells. Rats with severe brain injuries were treated with this mixture for eight weeks showed signs of significant recovery.
We have seen an increase in brain injuries due to combat, but our strategy can also potentially be applied to head injuries caused by car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds. These results that we are seeing in adult lab rats are the first of its kind and show a sustained functional recovery in the animal model of TBI (traumatic brain injury). It also represents one of very few in the traumatic brain injury field that attempts structural repair of the lesion cavity using a tissue-engineering approach.
A procedure for human trials is expected to be ready in about three years.
In another nonsurgical breakthrough in the treatment of head trauma that we reported previously, a University of Minnesota researcher claims that inhaling medication and/or stem cells into the nasal passages can be an effective approach for treating serious brain disease.
“Intranasal delivery of therapeutic cells could potentially benefit the treatment of head injury, stroke, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and so on,” Dr. William Frey said.
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