Stem cell research targets cerebral palsy

Natural chemicals that assist healing may one day help transplanted adult stem cells integrate into an injured brain, helping children with cerebral palsy recover lost function, according to researchers at the Medical College of Georgia.

"We know that we can get stem cells into the brain and they will turn into brain cells but we really don't know how well they work," says Dr. James E. Carroll, chief of the MCG Section of Pediatric Neurology. "The cells probably do form synapses," he says of connections brain cells make so they can communicate. "But the question is: Will all this integrate into improved function?"

Dr. Carroll is principal investigator on a new grant from the American Heart Association and an existing grant from the National Institutes of Health that are using an animal model of cerebral palsy to identify the most effective way to transplant stem cells and possibly answer that question.

With this latest grant, Dr. Carroll, who also treats patients with cerebral palsy, wants to determine whether transplanted stem cells work best when the cells are injected directly into the brain along with these natural chemicals, called chemokines.

Chemokines are growth factors that attract white blood cells and are quickly summoned to the site of an injury, such as a brain injury that occurs in cerebral palsy. More recently, researchers have found that chemokines also seem to attract stem cells to an injury site. However, at least in an animal model of cerebral palsy, the healing chemicals are present for only a few days after injury, Dr. Carroll has shown.

"Chemokines are produced normally, naturally and briefly after a brain injury of some type as part of the healing process," Dr. Carroll says. "But probably there are not enough of them produced and they are not produced long enough to do what we want to do. So we are working on ways to get additional factor into the brain to promote the integration of new cells long after

Contact: Toni Baker
Medical College of Georgia

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