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Stem cells help brain repair, make new neurons and blood vessels after stroke

ou have this area like a shell surrounding the core, called the penumbra, like a shadow, that has a gradient of damage as you move from the core of the stroke to the unaffected tissue. This is the area that is going to be the most sensitive to being repaired. So maybe if we can enhance that repair, we could preserve a region that would normally die but is an area we can target to recover.

Enhancement could come through the use of growth factors that affect subsets of bone marrow cells; possibly some already on the market, for example to help leukemia patients rebuild bone marrow after chemotherapy, might be useful.

If this works out, you will be able to give individuals shots following stroke to boost their bone marrow to proliferate these stem cells to do specific tasks, target specific groups of these stem cells important to blood vessel repair and the genesis of new neurons, Dr. Hill said. The work has implications for all sorts of brain injuries early and late in life such as cerebral palsy, Parkinsons and Alzheimers disease.

This repair process mimics embryological development when stem cells from the bone marrow help form blood vessels in the brain. There are some data that older people dont have as many circulating stem cells as younger, healthier people do, Dr. Hess said, so enhancing the cell number involved in repair should enhance the natural process.

Enhancing the natural process could avoid more aggressive measures such as transplanting cell-laden bone marrow. Why would we transplant bone marrow cells into people when their bone marrow already has these cells? Dr. Hess said. It makes much more sense to actually maximize what they already put out. Also, rather than taking bone marrow out and injecting it into the brain, why not make use, again, of this natural process that summons the cells to the location of the brain injury?

Finding what summons the cells to the injury site is key
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@mail.mcg.edu
706-721-4421
Medical College of Georgia
2-May-2002


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