Over the years, doctors and health care professionals have learned a lot about the factors that increase people’s risk of stroke. Factors such as high blood pressure, smoking and heart disease can all play an important role in a person’s lifetime, but post-stroke treatment often means a long recovery period, and even then, there is no guarantee of a full recovery.
In a perfect world, doctors can really repair the damage done to the brain by stroke, restoring it to its pre-stroke function. Now, researchers at Lund University in Sweden believe they have taken a small step in that direction by repairing the brains of stroke rats.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, focused on using “reprogrammed” human skin cells to repair damaged rodent brains, which are “reprogrammed” for nerve cells. These cells are transplanted into the rodent’s brain and then allowed to heal. Notably, the new cells repair edrifyed by stroke, and even more incredible, the new connection restores the animal’s mobility and previously lost sense of touch.
“Six months after the transplant, we can see how the new cells repaired the brain damage caused by stroke to rats,” explained study co-author Professor Zaal Kokaia. This is particularly interesting because previous studies have suggested that human cells can be compatible with the brains of stroke patients, but whether these cells can make the right connections and truly restore lost movement or sensation is still unknown.
Now, it seems, the answer has been answered, and the rats in the study did benefit from transplants. “What’s remarkable is that finding it can actually repair the brain damaged by the stroke and re-establish the nerve connections that have been lost,” said Olle Lindvall, co-author of the study. “This study raises hopes for replacing dead nerve cells with new healthy nerve cells in stroke patients in the future, although there is still a long way to go to achieve this goal. “
Looking ahead, the researchers plan to focus on how the restored brains of rats can change the quality of life in animals. Things like memory testing, for example, show that new cells can get the brain back to normal quickly. Such trials are not yet ready for human trials, but it is possible that in the near future we may see the use of this method in stroke patients.