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Progenitor cells can have protective effect against brain trauma

Cell transplants in rats restore brain function and lessen further damage in the brain

(Philadelphia, PA) University of Pennsylvania researchers have found that by transplanting neural progenitor cells into rats with brain injuries they can restore brain function and lessen further brain damage. Their findings are the first to demonstrate the ability of progenitor cells, grown in culture, to restore cognitive and motor function while rescuing brain cells from the cumulative effects of traumatic brain injury.

The results of the research, led by Tracy K. McIntosh, PhD, of the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, is presented in the May issue of the Journal of Neurosurgery.

"Stem cell transplants are currently of interest because of the potential they have for treating brain injuries in humans," said McIntosh, professor in the departments of Neurosurgery, Bioengineering, and Pharmacology and director of Penn's Head Injury Center. "In this study we have determined how progenitor cells a more developed type of stem cell cannot only restore function, but counteract the secondary injuries that result from brain trauma."

Unlike stem cells, which are completely unspecialized, progenitor cells have begun the path to specialization. In this study, the stem cells used have become progenitor brain cells, although they have not yet developed into a specific type of brain cell. The researchers found that the progenitor cells were able to survive in the hostile environment of the injured brains and actually promote the reconnection of brain pathways that were destroyed during trauma. Using tests to determine cognitive ability and motor skills, rats with the transplanted progenitor cells recovered substantially better than rats that did not have the transplanted cells.

The researchers used two different types of cultures of the same progenitor cells. One type remained nave; that is, they had not been altered, while the other had been
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Contact: Greg Lester
lesterg@uphs.upenn.edu
215-349-5658
University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
14-May-2001


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