Each year, thousands of people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries. No matter whether these injuries are serious or mild, a mounting body of evidence shows that the effects of traumatic brain injuries can last for many years. The problem, of course, is that the brain, unlike other organs, cannot regenerate damaged neurons naturally.
Recently, researchers at Penn State University published a study regarding a new technology that may help neurons damaged by injury or disease repair themselves. The team published their findings in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
When a person injures his brain, neurons die. Other cells, however, known as glial cells, grow more numerous. Unlike neurons, glial cells do not transmit electrical impulses. Instead, they perform an insulating function and give support to neural cells. Glial cells grow after injury to provide the brain protection from further injury or infection. Unfortunately, this natural healing process can cause further injury by forming scar tissue, which can prevent neurons from reforming connections.
The technology developed by the Penn State researchers effectively makes glial cells transform into impulse-carrying neural cells. The team was able to force glial cells to produce a protein called NeuroD1. This protein is known to be important in supporting the growth of neurons in the hippocampus of adult human brains. The team was able to get glial cells to produce this protein by infecting them with a retrovirus containing the genetic code for NeuroD1. Their tests were not conducted on living subjects, but rather on cells in a lab.
A great deal of further research is necessary, but the Penn State team hopes that their technique will one day lead to treatments that can be used on individuals who suffer serious brain injuries. They note, too, that this type of therapy may prove useful in the treatment of conditions such as Alzheimer's disease. The potential for this new technology is significant: if effective, it could conceivably help those who have been paralyzed regain the use of their limbs.
If you have suffered a traumatic brain injury in a car crash, fall, or other type of accident, consider contacting a personal injury lawyer. Recovery from a traumatic brain injury can take a very long time and, depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost income, and pain and suffering . Contact an attorney today to learn more about your options if you have been seriously injured.