Brain Cell Transplants Show Promise in Treating Epilepsy

This may sound like the plot of a science fiction horror film, but scientists are transplanting human cells into the brains of epilepsy patients. But it seems to be working so far. Epileptic seizures occur when electrical discharges in the brain's neurons run wild, causing abnormal and excessive storms of brain activity. People who suffer these seizures cannot take part in certain jobs and activities, such as driving, and can also suffer from poor memory and cognitive decline. If epilepsy cannot be controlled by medication, surgery is an option that involves cutting parts of the brain that can sometimes result in permanent brain damage.

In a new experiment, stem cells were harvested from a human embryo created via IVF. They were grown and coaxed into becoming “inhibitory interneurons” that secrete a chemical called GABA that quiets brain activity. In a trial involving five epilepsy patients, these cells were injected into each subject's hippocampus. Three subjects showed significant improvement in the number and severity of seizures, enough to change their lives. One patient showed no improvement, and one patient showed quick improvement that may have been caused by something else. Read about the possibilities of stem cell therapy for epileptic seizures at MIT Technology Review. -via Damn Interesting 

(Image credit: GDJ

More Neat Posts