Of all the health problems facing the American public, few pose as great of a challenge as stroke. Aside from claiming about 140,000 lives each year, a stroke leaves many people with longterm health problems, such as paralysis, memory loss and speaking difficulties. In an attempt to address such issues, a recent study has tried a novel approach – altering and transplanting cells.
This research comes courtesy of Sweden’s Lund University, and was published in the research journal PNAS. What this group managed to do is highly noteworthy; through the implantation of altered cells, the researchers were able to reduce stroke-related health problems in mice. Specifically, the mice exhibited improved mobility and touch sensation. What made this achievement even more impressive is that the cells were originally human skin cells, which were subsequently converted into nerve cells before being inserted into the mice’s brains.
This wasn’t the Lund University team’s first study on this issue. Their previous work had successfully transformed human stem cells into nerve cells, and had likewise managed to transplant such cells into the brains of rodents suffering from the aftermath of stroke. This latest project, however, marked the first time that implanted cells were shown to reverse stroke-related damage. The study found that the cells had accomplished this task by establishing connections in the opposing region of the rodent’s brains.
The Next Step
Study author Zaal Kokaia noted that the mice’s highly positive response came as a pleasant surprise. “We have used tracking techniques, electron microscopy and other methods, such as light to switch off activity in the transplanted cells, as a way to show that they really have connected correctly in the damaged nerve circuits,” stated Kokaia in a Lund University press release. “We have been able to see that the fibres from the transplanted cells have grown to the other side of the brain, the side where we did not transplant any cells, and created connections. No previous study has shown this.”
Kokaia further added that his team plans to conduct additional research on this subject. They next plan to measure how such transplants affect memory and if mice who receive converted cells experience any notable side effects.