We frequently report on the many different investigations currently underway to better understand how the brain works and figure out ways to prevent and treat brain injuries. The studies are often very diverse, because, after all, the brain is the most complex organ in the body. In fact, it is safe to say that the human brain is one of the most complex single machines on the planet. Research will naturally be similarly complicated and divergent, with researchers each tackling small pieces of the puzzle.
In this way we have learned much, from the general idea of neuroplasticity and the “cascading” effect of traumatic brain injuries to the harm caused by tau protein build-up. We have come a long way, but significant work remains before much of this new knowledge is transformed into concrete treatment options. That is not to say that medical experts are not on the case, from “cooling” techniques to prevent cascading to electrical stimuli on the tongue to stimulate regeneration of brain connections, there are some exciting prospects on the horizon that may result in real benefits for those suffering from all types of brain injuries, TBIs, degenerative injuries (i.e. dementia), and even those brain injuries that develop at birth.
The Promise of Stem Cells
One of those possibilities involves stem cells. It has long been known that these cells, because of their unique properties of spurring regeneration, may hold the key to helping those with any number of currently permanent injuries including those affecting the brain. In recent years there has been particular focus on “cord blood” collected after a birth and matched to the actual child born. The idea is that that cord blood can be used later if the child were to suffer any sort of injury–either during the birth or after.
One nonprofit group that is leading the way in this effort is known a Newborn Possibilities. You can view their website here. Essentially, the entity works by providing critical grants to medical institutions and others who are at the cutting edge of studying cord blood’s use to take advantage of stem cell properties of rejuvenation. The group provides support for many universities that are conducting trials to test the benefit of certain therapies. For example, there are trials going on right now to see if the use of cord blood on children who suffer from cerebral palsy (which is a brain injury often arising during traumatic births).
While cord blood is most often associated with these birth injuries, in reality the long term benefit of stem cells may actually be used to for any number of harms, including things like traumatic brain injuries caused by auto accidents, falls, sporting hits, and more.
According to the Newborn Possibilities website studies in animals have found that the cells in the cord may may actually be able to cross the “blood brain barrier,” move to the damaged tissue, and begin repairing it. In this way, it acts almost like a magic bullet that works to fix serious problems. However, things are never as easy as they seem when it comes to using these options in human bodies, and so medical experts are vigilantly working to tame the process and develop real long term treatment options.
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