Saturday 12 March 2016

Thoughts aloud: may the cells restoring brain damage, be a solution for the blind?

Today I watched an amazing speech of neurosurgeon Jocelyne Bloch on TEDTalks.

Dr. Bloch together with her colleague, a biologist Jean-Francois Brunet, purified miraculous brain cells, which behave almost like stem cells, but with a slight difference. These so-called doublecortin-positive cells comprising only 4% of the cerebral cortex are able to turn into full-fledged neurons and build up the damaged areas of the brain. To prove this, the researchers conducted the following animal experiment with monkeys. They isolated a small sample of the brain from a non-functional region thereof, and grew a culture of doublecortin-positive cells from it. Hereafter the researchers tagged the grown cells with a special dye and implanted them back into intact brain of the same monkey. Due to the tags researchers could observe that the introduced cells eventually dissipated, they just disappeared. Further, in order to understand whether these cells may behave differently, researchers introduced the same tagged cells this time into the damaged part of the monkey’s brain. Noteworthy, in this case the cells have not disappeared. They remained at the site of injury instead and become fully-fledged neurons. Moreover, the newly formed neurons not only built up the injury physically, but also took over the functions for which this region responded before the damaging.

More details you can learn from the speech of Dr. Bloch:

Undoubtedly, this is an amazing speech. I suppose that in perspective the study of Dr. Bloch et al. gives hope to restore also the visual function to patients who have lost their vision due to brain structures damage.

Also the doctor’s speech pushed my thought further. As we know, the retina and the optic nerve are also made up of neurons. Involuntarily a thought arises: what if these unique doublecortin -positive cells are capable to differentiate (turn) into neurons, by being implanted into the damaged retina or optic nerve? Maybe, it’s a crazy idea, but I'll try to investigate the information to this end and surely will let you know as soon as I find out anything.

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