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Child Neuropsychology

A blog by Dr Jonathan Reed

  • I have written a previous post explaining why stem cells could be an important treatment for people with brain injury and disease. In summary the brain cannot repair itself. Stem cells are naturally occurring cells that turn into neurons but are only present in the embryo. The Bush government vetoed research in this area on religious and ethical grounds but Obama has overturned this.

    Recently there have been two interesting studies that show the potential of stem cells for neurology and neuropsychology. They both use human stem cells transported to rats. If these results can be replicated in humans it will transform our world.

    In first study published in PNAS Munjal Acharya and others from the University of California implanted human stem cells into rats that had damaged hippocampus due to radiation. Not only did the stem cells repair the damage they also resulted in restored learning and memory (functions associated with the hippocampus). If this could be replicated in humans we could have a treatment for neuropsychological impairment, which would benefit thousands of children and young people.

    In the second study published in Stem Cell, Jason Sharpe and colleagues from the University of California transplanted human stem cells into rats that were paralysed by a spinal cord lesion. The stem cells repaired the lesion and resulted in improved recovery of forelimb function. Again if stem cells can repair spinal cord injury in humans the benefits would be huge.

    Also although this is not neurological I was also fascinated to see researchers grow part of a human jaw bone using stem cells.

    There is a huge amount of research being undertaken in this area at present (thanks to Obama). The NIH site on stem cells in the US is a good website for following what happens. There are a few human studies- see this on MS, but so far the majority of studies are animals although they are starting to use human stem cells with animals. If these results could be replicated in humans we may be able to repair bones, spinal cords, brains and restore neuropsychological function. Very exciting times!

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