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  • Stem Cell-Protein Combination Reverses Poststroke Brain Damage in Mice

    Could brain damage poststroke be reversed? Researchers in a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study say they have found a combination of human stem cells and a protein that created new, functional neurons in the brains of stroke-induced mice.

    In the August 22 edition of Nature Medicine (abstract only available for free), researchers from the University of Southern California outline how they combined 2 methods that individually have demonstrated limited success as treatments for neurologic injury poststroke: surgical grafting of human neural stem cells in the damaged area and administration of the 3KL3A-APC protein, which is derived from the human-activated protein-C.

    When the researchers combined these approaches in stroke-induced mice, they found that the grafted stem cells developed into neurons that made "functional and structural connections with the host's nervous system," explained lead researcher Berislav Zlokovic in an interview with Science Daily. Use of the protein compound resulted in mice with 16 times more human stem cell-derived neurons than mice that received the stem cells and a placebo, Science Daily reports.

    When the mice were tested a month after their stroke, researchers found significant improvement in motor and sensory function compared with that of mice administered neither or only 1 of the 2 components.

    "Functional deficit after 5 weeks of stroke were minimized, and the mice were almost back to normal in terms of motor and sensorimotor functions," Zlokovic told Science Daily. "Synapses formed between transplanted cells and host cells, so there is functional activation and cooperation of transplanted cells in the host circuitry."

    Researchers plan to begin testing whether the improvements can be replicated in human patients. If so, Zlokovic and his team will test the treatment on other neurological conditions, such as spinal cord injuries.

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