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When the brain is damaged, injured neurons die and typically are not replaced. This cell death frequently results in a loss of function by the affected region of the brain. However, if neurons that have died could be replaced and their connections rebuilt, normal function might be restored.
There are two possible approaches available to achieve this goal. One involves transplanting neural stem cells to the injured brain, and then coaxing them to differentiate into new, functionally appropriate neurons and glial cells.
The second acknowledges that new neurons are produced in the brain throughout life, and endeavors to encourage these newly generated neurons to replace those that have died.
We are investigating both of these approaches.
The research underway is conducted in vitro and in vivo, and spans molecular neurobiology to behavioral neuroscience. However, all of it converges on a common goal: to restore behavioral function that has been compromised or lost due to brain injury by replacing cells that have died and rebuilding appropriate neural connections.
- Potter, W., Kalil, R.E., and W.J. Kao. (2008) Biomimetic material systems for neural progenitor cell-based therapy. Frontiers in Bioscience. 13: 806-821 http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0018535
- Hendrickson ML, Rao AJ, Demerdash ONA, Kalil RE, 2011. Expression of Nestin by Neural Cells in the Adult Rat and Human Brain. PLoS ONE 6(4): e18535. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0018535 http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0001604