New Stroke Treatment: Astrocytes Protect Brain Tissue

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Quick response to a stroke is critical in the long-term recovery. Image by Webber

Quick response to a stroke is critical in the long-term recovery. Image by Webber

Stroke Science: Interview with Dr. Deng

Decoded Science had the opportunity to interview Dr. Deng, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine at UC Davis, and senior author of the study.

What makes astrocytes so important? Dr. Deng told Decoded Science,

“The astrocytes’ specific beneficial function to stroke, they protect damaged brain cells, halt the progression of “dead zones” following stroke, and improve function in other brain areas to compensate for the tissue damage following stroke by promoting regeneration of neurons and synapses, enhancing remyelination (regeneration of myelin), and encouraging functional neurobehavioral recovery after ischemic brain injury.”

Decoded Science asked Dr. Deng how would this help stroke patients and he responded,

“Stem cell-derived astrocytes may help to limit the spread of damage after an ischemic brain stroke in patients, and may also help regenerate and repair damaged brain cells. Both of which may lead to better functional recovery in patients. And would need to be administered within six hours of a person having a stroke. This therapy could be used for many other CNS disorders, including traumatic brain disorder, cerebral palsy, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, as well as epilepsy, and spinal cord injury.”

Surprising Stroke Research Find

The stem-cell-derived astrocytes created by the research team are different from any other astrocytes previously studied, according to Dr. Deng – and they’re remarkably effective in protecting the brain from stroke damage and even helping with regeneration. He tells us,

A stroke is caused by a clot or broken blood vessel in the brain. Image by Blausen Medical Communications, Inc.

A stroke is caused by a clot or broken blood vessel in the brain. Image by Blausen Medical Communications, Inc.

The limited endogenous capacity of the adult nervous tissue for self-repair is forcing the need to develop viable cell based replacement strategies for treating central nervous system trauma, stroke, and neurodegenerative diseases. Self-renewal, pluripotency and amenability to gene targeting make embryonic stem cells a highly attractive source for regenerative medicine.”

“…our new method for deriving astrocytes from embryonic stem cells creates a cell population that is more pure and functionally superior to the standard method for astrocyte derivation.

The functional improvement seen in the brain injury models is impressive and bears translational potential to benefit patients with stroke and other CNS injuries and diseases.”

Stroke Damage: Treating the Aftereffects of Central Nervous System Injury

Strokes kill 130,000 people in the United States every year, according to the CDC.  New treatments for strokes can help repair some of the damage, but there is no cure for brain injury damage. In the absence of a cure, preventing strokes remains the best option, so exercise – it’s in your own best interests.

Resources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Facts. (2013). Accessed July 24, 2013.

Peng Jiang, Chen Chen, Wenbin Deng. hESC-derived Olig2 progenitors generate a subtype of astroglia with protective effects against ischaemic brain injury. (2013). Nature Communications. Accessed July 24, 2013.

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