An MRI machine has been able to show how nerves, which carry electrical signals to and from brain cells, regenerate in the brains of the injured.
It is the first time that this has been done in humans.
The team behind the work from Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley, said they hoped it would help doctors improve treatments for stroke and other neurological disorders.
In a paper published online today in Nature, the researchers describe how they injected brain cells with an antibody to protect the cells from dying.
The cells then grew into “molecular scaffolds” made of proteins and other proteins.
By the time the scaffolds reached the cells, they were able to rewire themselves to form new nerve cells.
This allowed the cells to make new connections, and to regrow nerve cells, in the absence of the antibody.
The new findings also have the potential to improve treatments, such as drugs that can keep neurons alive, for several months, and could also help doctors develop more effective drugs for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease.
“This is the most important thing we have done in the last decade,” said senior author James S. Miller, a professor of surgery and a surgeon at Johns Hopkins.
“We have this new tool that allows us to actually look at the whole process, and see what happens.”
In the study, the scientists injected nerve cells from rats into the brains and brains of injured rats, then used a method called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to study the growth of new nerve cell types in the spinal cord of the rats.
They found that, when the cells were transplanted into the spinal cords of healthy rats, the new nerve growth was very rapid and the rats did not die from the injury.
“If we can help people who are in a really bad state of their brain recover better than they could otherwise recover, that is something that is really going to be very valuable for people who want to be able to get back to their jobs,” said co-author Dr. Michael R. Sommers, who is also a neurosurgeon at Johns, and is an associate professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
In addition to Miller and Sommer, the study team included Dr. Steven J. Zimbardo, the Robert Wood Johnson Professor of Neuroscience at the University at Buffalo; Dr. Anette Wahlgren, a researcher at the Medical College of Wisconsin; and Dr. David P. Boulton, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns.
The work was funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Miller is an investigator of the Johns Johns Hopkins Brain Institute and the Center for Regenerative Medicine at Johns University.
The Johns Hopkins team also included Drs.
Tae-Hyun Kim, Yoon-Seok Kim, Jung-Min Choi, Yi-Hyung Choi, Hye-Min Kim, and Choo-Sung Lee.
Miller and Miller’s co-authors are: Michael A. Pardee, an assistant professor of psychiatry and neurobiology at Johns; Drs Michael L. D’Antonio, a neuroscientist at the National Institute of Mental Health; and Paul R. Whelan, an associate clinical professor of neurology at the John Hopkins University School of Neurobiology and Biomedical Sciences.
The researchers are also affiliated with the Johns Jacobs School of Public Health, which supports research into the neuroscience of health.
For more information about stroke, visit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/stroke/ About the Johns School of Advanced Nursing, a Johns Hopkins university, is dedicated to advancing knowledge through rigorous research and clinical care.
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