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Can We Grow Cells to Repair the Brain?

September 23, 2016
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For many patients, tragedies resulting in brain injuries signal the end of the road for complete bodily function. Although recoveries are somewhat common, full repair to the central nervous system is rare and many patients remain with a severe handicap. The little ability that the brain has for self-repair is what inspired Jocelyne Bloch, a functional neurosurgeon from Switzerland, to pursue her field of study. As a functional neurosurgeon, Bloch performs different surgeries on the brain in an attempt to improve neurological function. The most famous being “deep brain stimulation” where an electrode is implanted in the brain in order to modulate a circuit of neurons. Her dream, like many other neurosurgeons, is to one day have the ability to fully repair the brain, and she believes that we are close. As a chief resident 15 years ago, Bloch and her colleague Jean-François Brunet decided to study the cells of discarded brain tissue, and even more, they attempted to grow them. With the right conditions they were able to cultivate results similar to stem cells. They further carried out research with monkeys that were plegic to see how they would recover with the newly-grown implanted brain cells versus the animal’s own recovery efforts. The results were astounding. After re-implantation of the monkey’s own brain cells the animal made almost a complete recovery. Although many years of research and “about two kilograms of papers and forms” are needed for this to go to trial, this type of research gives palpable hope to those who suffer from any number of neurological injuries. Hear more about Bloch’s discoveries in her December 2015 TED Talk. [embed][/embed]
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