Stem Cell Therapy Heals Injured Mouse Brain
Scientists and clinicians have long dreamed of helping the injured brain repair itself by creating new neurons; an innovative NIH-funded study published Aug. 22 in Nature Medicine may bring this goal much closer to reality. A team of researchers has developed a therapeutic technique that dramatically increases the production of nerve cells in mice with stroke-induced brain damage.
The therapy relies on the combination of two methods that show promise as treatments for stroke-induced neurological injury. The first consists of surgically grafting human neural stem cells into the damaged area, where they mature into neurons and other brain cells. The second involves administering a compound called 3K3A-APC, which the scientists have shown helps neural stem cells grown in a Petri dish develop into neurons. However, it was unclear what effect the molecule, derived from a human protein called activated protein-C (APC), would have in live animals.
A month after their strokes, mice that had received both the stem cells and 3K3A-APC performed significantly better on tests of motor and sensory functions compared to mice that received neither or only one of the treatments. In addition, many more of the stem cells survived and matured into neurons in the mice given 3K3A-APC.
“This animal study could pave the way for a potential breakthrough in how we treat people who have experienced a stroke,” added Dr. Jim Koenig, a program director at NINDS, which funded the research. “If the therapy works in humans, it could markedly accelerate the recovery of these patients.”