JUN 04, 2018 5:20 AM PDT

Repairing the Brain After a Stroke

A stroke is a severe medical event that impacts brain function because the supply of oxygen is cut off during a stroke. The most common kind of stroke is an ischemic stroke, accounting for more than 80% of strokes each year. In an ischemic stroke, a blood clot develops, sometimes in the legs, lungs or heart and can break off and travel to the brain. In a hemorrhagic stroke, a blood vessel in the brain bursts and blood fills the skull, which also cuts off the oxygen supply.

In the United States, about 795,000 people have a stroke each year, and 185,000 of those strokes are repeat attacks. Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the US and the leading cause of serious long-term disability. Having a stroke can leave a person with significant impairments in movement, cognitive ability, and speech. Factors like smoking, atrial fibrillation and hypertension can increase the risk of having a stroke.

While many people have heard that brain tissue, once gone, can never be regained, new research suggests that might not be the case. A new stroke-healing gel created by a team of scientists at UCLA shows promising results in a mouse model study. Dr. S. Thomas Carmichael, professor of neurology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA explained, "We tested this in laboratory mice to determine if it would repair the brain and lead to recovery in a model of stroke. The study indicated that new brain tissue can be regenerated in what was previously just an inactive brain scar after stroke."

While it's a long way from being developed for use in humans, the results are encouraging. Many organs can regenerate after injury, for instance, if the liver is lacerated or injured, it can grow new blood vessels and tissue, but the brain does not have this natural ability. Skin grows back as well, but when a part of the brain is cut off from the oxygen-rich blood supply, the tissue simply dies. It's eventually reabsorbed, but it leaves a crater-like cavity in the brain that doesn't have blood vessels, axons or neurons. Without oxygen or a way for cells to transmit signals, the area of the brain affected ceases to function.

The team at UCLA which included Tatiana Segura, a former professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the university (she is now at Duke University), developed a water-based gel that is injected into the cavity left by a stroke. The goal was to see if the gel could jump-start nearby healthy tissue to grow into the cavity. In the research, the gel thickened when applied to the brains of the mice and formed a bio-scaffolding. The gel contained medications that foster blood vessel growth and also inhibit inflammation. When the brain is injured, inflammation can cause scar tissue to form and once that happens new vessels and cells cannot grow.

At the end of 16 weeks of the gel placement, the stroke cavities showed regenerated brain tissue, including cell connections of new neurons. The mice also showed an improved ability to seek food, which is an indicator of motor function, but the study could not prove definitively what mechanism caused the improvement. The gel gets absorbed by the body eventually, and all that is left behind is new tissue. Segura explained, "The new axons could actually be working. Or the new tissue could be improving the performance of the surrounding, unharmed brain tissue." Check out the first half the video below to learn more about this development.

Sources: CDC,  Nature Materials, UCLA

About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
You May Also Like
JUL 06, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
It's Not a Grandmother Cell, But Maybe It's a Grandma Cluster
JUL 06, 2021
It's Not a Grandmother Cell, But Maybe It's a Grandma Cluster
In the 60s, neuroscientists proposed that specific brain cells were connected to the recognition of specific objects, us ...
JUL 15, 2021
Cannabis Sciences
Cannabis Terpenes Provide Pain Relief in Mice
JUL 15, 2021
Cannabis Terpenes Provide Pain Relief in Mice
Cannabis terpenes, the part of cannabis plants responsible for its smell and taste, may be able to relieve pain both by ...
JUL 27, 2021
Neuroscience
What is Neurotheology to a Neuroscientist?
JUL 27, 2021
What is Neurotheology to a Neuroscientist?
Neurotheology is the interdisciplinary science of religious and spiritual experience
AUG 16, 2021
Infographics
How Can We Make Sure Artificial Intelligence Won't Destroy Humanity?
AUG 16, 2021
How Can We Make Sure Artificial Intelligence Won't Destroy Humanity?
Artifical intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly pervasive in daily life. While still far from the robitic humanoids ...
AUG 18, 2021
Health & Medicine
Brain-Gut Connection in Brain Disorders Potentially Explained
AUG 18, 2021
Brain-Gut Connection in Brain Disorders Potentially Explained
Gut microbes are believed to influence brain disorders, potentially through the vagus nerve, as seen in experimental and ...
SEP 14, 2021
Health & Medicine
The New Social Darwinists: It's All About Survival at Any Cost
SEP 14, 2021
The New Social Darwinists: It's All About Survival at Any Cost
Researchers have found that people who perceive social relations in general Darwinian terms tend toward various personal ...
Loading Comments...