The science behind stem cells and brain injury

  The science behind stem cells and brain injury
Posted on Mon 12 Aug 2019

Written by Dr Madison Paton @DrMadiPaton (pictured right) 

Co-written and edited by Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson @MFinchEdmondson (pictured left)

 

My name is Dr Madison Paton. I am a scientist with a PhD in stem cells and neuroscience (brain research). While stem cells and neuroscience can seem complicated, the emerging results we are seeing from research in this area are incredibly interesting and exciting! What we are finding has the ability to impact everyone, not just those living with a disability. But it’s so important to make sure this information and any results are communicated effectively and accurately.

I’ve always been passionate about communicating my work to those around me. So together with my fellow stem cell researcher, Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson, I want to demystify stem cell and neuroscience research. We’ll do this by sharing reliable and up-to-date information on how stem cell research impacts what we know about different brain conditions in a way that is easy to understand, and is supported by expert opinion and interpretation.

First, we will start with answering some basic questions about neuroscience and stem cells:

 

What is neuroscience?

Neuroscience is the study of the brain and the systems that help our brain signal to and from the rest of our body.

Neuroscience research therefore includes the study of tiny molecules and cells, all the way up to whole tissues, organs and body systems.

The research itself covers a huge array of investigations into many different conditions like cerebral palsy, dementia, multiple sclerosis, brain tumours, epilepsy, migraines and stroke.

 

Image: Natalie Prigozhina (2015) CIL:48108, Rattus norvegicus, Neural stem cells. CIL. Dataset. https://doi.org/doi:10.7295/W9CIL48108

 

What are stem cells?

A stem cell is a cell that matures into all the different types of tissues and cells in our body. A prime example of this is a fertilised egg or oocyte that goes on to form a ball of cells called a blastocyst. This is the ultimate stem cell, growing to form a human. However, experts have identified many different types of stem cells found in a variety of tissue types. These include adult tissues like bone marrow and fat, to other sources like the placenta or the blood in the umbilical cord.

Each of these stem cell types and sources have varying abilities to mature into different cells or tissue types. They begin by making copies of themselves, and then can develop into specialised cells that secrete substances to signal change in our bodies that could be helpful after injury, and promote repair. These functions are incredibly helpful especially when trying to uncover new treatments for different conditions. We can begin to apply stem cells much like we would a drug, and start to heal and repair different parts of the damaged body. 

Check out these links for more information. 

http://www.stemcellsaustralia.edu.au/About-Stem-Cells.aspx

https://www.closerlookatstemcells.org/learn-about-stem-cells/stem-cell-basics/

 

What does neuroscience have to do with stem cells?

The brain is limited in its ability to repair and regenerate. If a brain injury occurs, it is normally irreversible and can result in permanent disability, like cerebral palsy.

Therefore the functions of stem cells could be useful when we are considering them for the treatment of brain injury.

These stem cells could be applied to rebuild tissue and secrete and signal factors that support repair and stop damaging processes. Researchers are harnessing this incredible ability of stem cells to protect and repair the brains of those at risk of, or living with brain injury.

 

Having an understanding of neuroscience together with stem cell science is a major advantage to uncovering the ways that we can progress treatments for brain injury.

At Cerebral Palsy Alliance, we want to better understand how stem cells can be harnessed to prevent, protect and treat cerebral palsy, as well as other brain conditions.

 

 

CPA has adjusted its fees in line with the NDIS benchmark pricing from 1 July 2019.

Marley works full time at CPA while studying for a degree, and as three daughters, two of whom live with disabilities. Marley demonstrates how she finds the energy and motivation to successfully juggles her busy life.