Stem cells and the brain: what conditions could we treat in the future?

Stem cells and the brain: what conditions could we treat in the future?
Posted on Wed 14 Jul 2021

Written by Dr Madison Paton and Dr Megan Finch-Edmondson

We’re slowly uncovering the potential of stem cells as a treatment for brain injury. In the future, new cell therapies could revolutionise the way we treat those with, or at risk of, brain injury. Head here to find out more about how the stem cell research pipeline works, and how we can make stem cell treatment part of standard medical care.

Currently however, stem cells are not yet approved for use in Australia except in certain blood conditions including cancers.

So, what research is being done that might change this?

For Cerebral Palsy Alliance, stem cells are an important area of recent research focus and show promise as a treatment to help repair the brain after injury. You can watch short videos about this here.

In the future, new cell therapies could revolutionise the way we treat those with, or at risk of, brain injury

Just as there are many types of stem cell to research, there are also many brain conditions and types of injury that need to be explored. Stem cells are currently being investigated as a treatment for a number of brain conditions including:

  • Cerebral palsy
  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Autism
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Traumatic brain injury

These conditions differ greatly from one another – in how the brain is affected, when the condition occurs in life, and what the long-term prognosis is. However, there are a number of common mechanisms that contribute to the various conditions. For example, inflammation, swelling, cell death, release of growth factors, scar formation and changes in blood vessels are often present in a number of brain conditions. Therefore, stem cell treatments identified for one condition may be useful for others.

The graphic below shows the many potential functions of stem cell treatments, and how these cells interact with the mechanisms that contribute to brain injury. You can also learn more about where stem cells come from and how they work in previous posts.

The more we uncover about how brain injuries develop, the more we can understand about how to apply stem cells.

For more than 15 years, researchers have been investigating the use of stem cells to treat a range of brain conditions. The more we uncover about how brain injuries develop, including the various mechanisms involved, the more we can understand about how to apply stem cells. This might mean we can become better at offering interventions to help treat, or even one day cure, some or all of these conditions.

Do you have an interest in keeping up-to-date with the latest cerebral palsy and brain research? Want to understand the fascinating world of stem cell science? 

Research is a fast-moving field. There are lots of new headlines in the media every week, and with this comes plenty of information to process. I want to better inform the public and interested readers about stem cells and current research so you can understand how it may impact you. 

What are the questions the CPA community want answered about stem cells and research? We encourage you to submit your questions to researchinstitute@cerebralpalsy.org.au

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