Scientists at the University of California have found a potential new use for human embryonic stem cells: helping cancer patients recover the cognitive function lost when their brains are treated with radiation.
People with tumors in their head or neck often undergo radiation therapy after the cancer is surgically removed. Radiation helps kill malignant cells left behind. But it also can debilitate the hippocampus, the brain region responsible for learning, memory and processing of spatial information.
The researchers wondered whether embryonic stem cells could pick up the slack.
So they radiated the heads of 18 rats. Two days later, six of those
Research led by Charles Cox at the University of Texas Health Science Center has shown that stem cell therapy given during the critical time window after traumatic brain injury promotes lasting cognitive improvement.
These experiments, which were published in the latest issue of the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, provide a pre-clinical model for experiments with larger animals.
After the brain has suffered a traumatic injury, there are few treatment options. Damage to the brain can be severe, and can also cause ongoing neurological impairment. Approximately half of all patients with severe head injuries need surgery to remove or repair ruptured