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A "cure" for strokes may soon be a simple as growing new brain tissue

An intriguing new study reiterates the promise that stem cells hold for curing many diseases.  Stem cells in the human body can be transformed into a variety of types of cells, depending on what biologic agents they're exposed to.  Initially, stem cells were the subject of much more debate as they were harvested from fetuses, but now scientists are beginning to produce them in the lab by transforming patients' normal tissue cells into stem cells.

In the recent study, a team led by Dr. Mike Modo of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London investigated replacing stroke-damaged tissue in rats with new tissue from stem cells.  Strokes, caused by blockages in brain blood vessels lead to dead areas of brain tissue.  Past studies have looked at replacing this dead tissue with stem cells, which would grow into new brain tissue.  However, they have met with little success.

The new study, though, shows such growth is possible; the cells just need a scaffolding to grow.  In past studies, the cells migrated to other areas of the brain, making them essentially useless in fixing the problem.  In the new study researchers attach them to a tiny scaffold made of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA, and coated this scaffolding in neural stem cells.  The result is that the damaged brain tissue is regrown successfully in just 7 days.  The technique has a strong likelihood of being able to be applied in humans.

States Dr. Modo, "We would expect to see a much better improvement in the outcome after a stroke if we can fully replace the lost brain tissue, and that is what we have been able to do with our technique.  This works really well because the stem cell-loaded PLGA particles can be injected through a very fine needle and then adopt the precise shape of the cavity.”

“In this process the cells fill the cavity and can make connections with other cells, which helps to establish the tissue.  Over a few days we can see cells migrating along the scaffold particles and forming a primitive brain tissue that interacts with the host brain. Gradually the particles biodegrade leaving more gaps and conduits for tissue, fibres and blood vessels to move into," Dr. Modo continued.

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans are used in the study to locate the damaged tissue and the optimal injection site for the scaffolding/stem cell mix.  Subsequent MRI scans track the development of the brain tissue.

The researchers' next step will be to permeate the growing tissue with VEGF, a factor which promotes blood vessels to permeate a tissue.  This will help bring blood flow to the developing brain mass, keeping it alive. 

Professor Douglas Kell, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) which funded the project, states, "Stroke is a leading cause of disability in industrialised countries. It is reassuring to know that the technology for treating stroke by repairing brain damage is getting ever closer to translation into the clinic. This crucial groundwork by Dr Modo and his colleagues will surely be a solid foundation of basic research for much better treatments in the future."

Joe Korner, Director of Communications at The Stroke Association (UK) adds, "This research is another step towards using stem cell therapy in treating and reversing the brain damage caused by stroke. It is exciting because researchers have shown they are able to overcome some of the many challenges in translating the potential of using stem cells into reality.  The potential to reverse the disabling effects of stroke seems to have been proved. However the development of stem cell therapy for stroke survivors is still in the early stages and much more research will be needed before it can be tested in humans or used in practice.  Every five minutes someone in the UK has a stroke and it is vital that we do all we can to help those affected by stroke."

The new research is published in the journal Biomaterials.

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RE: Stem cell research...
By MrPoletski on 3/19/2009 12:52:47 PM , Rating: 2
We would be able to understand just as much because there are stem cells in lymph nodes, fat, bone, and placenta... none of which kill babies.

The adult stem cells found in these locations are NOT embryonic and are NOT capable of changing into all tissue types. They will simply change into a small group of tissue types relevant to their application. i.e. a neural stem cell will form new nerve cells, but not skin, bone, liver, kidney or muscle cells.

On top of that, for the love of sanity... you do not need to kill a baby to extract embryonic stem cells from an aborted foetus, nor from a miscarried foetus.

A single foetus would contain enough stem cells to do perform all the experiments on stem cells we have ever done. The only reason they harvest from multiple sources is to maintain genetic diversity (because genetics will affect the stem cells divisive behaviour).

In fact, we could probably start all the ESC research from one single cell that we culture, multiply in the thousands and replace the DNA inside with a spread we have gathered. Unfortunately the tech isn't there to do this reliably (yet).

PLUS we dont have to experiment with human stem cells or even human embryonic stem cells. We can use pigs because internally they are almost identical to humans.

While pigs and humans share some commonalities that allows heart valves to be nicked out a pig and stuck in a heart patient, on the genetic level they have fewer chromosomes so the genetic anaylsis will be interesting at best.

On top of that Bush didnt say no one could study human embryonic stem cells... he just said that he didnt want the federal government to fund it.

Indeed that is a good if somewhat incomplete point. He barred the production of new cultures for use in fed funded research meaning they can only use the older and soon to expire cultures already in existance. ESC research was never made illegal, simply effectively killed in the public domain. Privately ESC research will have continued unabated.

If you can point to where it says that the government is to fund the killing of unborn children in the constitution or any amendment I'd love to see it.

Please don't come out with crap like that or you'll only get flamed for it. Your constitution is not the be all and end all when it comes to things liek this. I mean it's like asking a priest to come out with an official christian stance on the practice of p2p file sharing using only the bible as a reference.

ESC research did not exist and the concept of stem cells was outside human comprehension at the time of authoring the us constitution, so of course it doesn't say anything about it... EITHER WAY!

If you want to find a constitutional position on ESC reasearch then you must look at what power the constitution grants the US government to do scientific research. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure the constitution allows the government to fund scientific research. Hence the constitution allows for ESC research.

The fact that pro life groups equate ESC research to murder is THEIR problem. While you might argue that abortion is murder, experimenting on ESC is not and can never be unless you specifically kill a foetus for the purpose of research. Being as specifically killing a foetus for ESC research is not and never will be neccessary, any situation where that does happen criminal charges can be brought and as far as I am concerned that seals the 'nightmare scenario' (which will never happen) of an abortion industry arising because ESC is publicly funded. It seals it good.

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