Human Neural Stem Cell Transplantation in Traumatic Brain Injury
If you believed everything you saw in the movies, you would think that a gunshot wound to the head almost always results in death. However, real-life data shows that 42% of victims survive penetrating head wounds. The 2011 shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords provides a recent, high-profile example. For these people and their families, the health and economic burdens resulting from traumatic brain injury are immense. Restorative treatments aimed at helping people gain greater independence have the potential to greatly improve quality of life. Unfortunately, no effective, FDA-approved treatments exist, although some animal experiments have shown promise.
Drs. Ross Bullock, Shyam Gajavelli, and Marcus Spurlock, along with their team of researchers at The Miami Project, are evaluating the restorative potential of human neural stem cells in a rat model of head injury. After being transplanted near the area of damage within the brain, cells grew and developed in to neural cells, and some beneficial effects were seen in learning and memory. To rapidly translate their findings, a strong collaboration was established between the Miami Project, Walter Reed Army Research Institute, and Neuralstem Inc. Collaborators have already completed similar studies in larger animals, and safety profiles of the cells are being evaluated in relation to head injury. Since these particular human brain cells are already approved by the FDA for use in clinical trials for stroke, spinal cord injury and ALS, they could be moved more quickly to clinical trials for head injury patients. Thus, this therapy has the potential to become a first in brain neurorestorative surgical treatment.