Medical Express News reported this week on the release of a new study which offers some positive news in the elusive quest for ways to get the brain to repair itself after injury or disease. The new research effort was spearheaded by the Medical Research Council (MRC). The group uncovered a protein known as Betacellulin (BTC) which plays a role in brain regeneration. The effect has not yet been evaluated in humans. However, in the studies involving mice, BTC was able to stimulate the brain’s stem cells ultimately helping to form new nerve endings. The research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, may prove to have significant benefits for Illinois traumatic brain injury victims.
When reporting on recovery options for those injured in this way, our Chicago brain injury attorneys have often noted that once certain cells are damaged, there is no going back. Most nerve cells in the brain are formed in the womb and soon after birth. Yet, experts now know that new neurons continue to be generated throughout one’s life via stem cells. These stem cells supply new neurons to parts of the brain that are responsible for a wide range of tasks, from the sense of smell to the forming memories and learning of new skills.
In traumatic brain injury victims (as well as degenerative brain injury victims) the stem cell production part of the brain acts abnormally. Instead of producing new neurons, these areas instead produce “glial cells” which essentially lead to the development of scar tissue. It seems that in response to the trauma, the stem cells prioritize damage control over long-term recovery-hence the production of scar tissue cells instead of new neurons to improve the damaged part of the brain.
Medical experts have long hoped that something could be done to fix this process for the victims so that actual new neurons are created instead of glial cells. This latest research was just such an attempt. The researchers examined the way that the BTC protein-itself produced by the stem cells in the brain blood vessels-affects the rate of neuron creation. Interestingly, the researchers found that BTC signals to the involved stem cells to increase neuron production. When extra BTC was added to the mice in the tests, the mice had an increase in stem cells and an increase in newly produced neurons. Conversely, those test mice that were given an antibody that blocks BTC showed a decrease in neuron development. Together this is strong evidence that BTC plays a crucial role in this brain regeneration process.
Our Illinois injury attorneys were encouraged to hear one researcher note that “This study is an important step towards our goal of moving beyond the replacement of tissues and organs to the exploitation of the intrinsic repair and regeneration potential of the human body.” While the work is still in its infancy, these are very encouraging steps. Next researcher will conduct more tests to see how BTC affects damaged cells alone and interacts with transplanted neural stem cells.
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