Unlocking the potential of stem cells to repair brain damage

June 4, 2014 by Sandra Hutchinson
Unlocking the potential of stem cells to repair brain damage
QUT researcher Rachel Okolicsanyi is looking at using stem cells to repair brain damage.

(Medical Xpress)—A QUT scientist is hoping to unlock the potential of stem cells as a way of repairing neural damage to the brain.

Rachel Okolicsanyi, from the Genomics Research Centre at QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation, said unlike other cells in the body which were able to divide and replicate, once most types of died, the damage was deemed irreversible.

Ms Okolicsanyi is manipulating from to produce a population of cells that can be used to treat .

"My research is a step in proving that stem cells taken from the bone marrow can be manipulated into , or that have the potential to replace, repair or treat brain damage," she said.

Ms Okolicsanyi's research has been published in Developmental Biology journal, and outlines the potential stem cells have for brain damage repair.

"What I am looking at is whether or not stem cells from the bone marrow have the potential to differentiate or mature into neural cells," she said.

"Neural cells are those cells from the brain that make everything from the structure of the brain itself, to all the connections that make movement, voice, hearing and sight possible."

Ms Okolicsanyi's research is looking at heparin sulfate proteoglycans - a family of proteins found on the surface of all cells.

"What we are hoping is that by manipulating this particular family of proteins we can encourage the stem cells to show a higher percentage of neural markers indicating that they could mature into neural cells rather than what they would normally do, which is form into bone, cartilage and fat," she said.

"We will manipulate these cells by modifying the surrounding environment. For example we will add chemicals such as complex salts and other commonly found biological chemicals to feed these cells and this will either inhibit or encourage cellular processes."

Ms Okolicsanyi said by doing this, it would be possible to see the different reactions stem cells had to particular chemicals and find out whether these chemicals could increase or decrease the neural markers in the cells.

"The proteins that we are interested in are almost like a tree," she said.

"They have a core protein that is attached to the cell surface and they have these heparin sulfate chains that branch off.

"So when the chemicals we add influence the stem cell in different ways, it will help us understand the interactions between proteins and the resulting changes in the cell.

"In the short-term it is proof that simple manipulations can influence the stem cell and in the long-term it is about the possibility of increasing the neural potential of these stem cells."

Ms Okolicsanyi said the big picture plan was to be able to introduce stem cells into the brain that would be able to be manipulated to repair damaged brain cells.

"The idea, for example, is that in stroke patients where the patient loses movement, speech or control of one side of their face because the 's electrical current is impaired, that these stem cells will be able to be introduced and help the electrical current reconnect by bypassing the damaged cells."

Ms Okolicsanyi's paper is titled "Mesenchymal , neural linage potential, heparin sulfate proteogylcans and the matrix."

Explore further: Bone marrow stem cells show promise in stroke treatment

More information: "Rachel K. Okolicsanyi, Lyn R. Griffiths, Larisa M. Haupt, Mesenchymal stem cells, neural lineage potential, heparan sulfate proteoglycans and the matrix," Developmental Biology, Volume 388, Issue 1, 1 April 2014, Pages 1-10, ISSN 0012-1606, dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2014.01.024.

Related Stories

Bone marrow stem cells show promise in stroke treatment

April 9, 2014
Stem cells culled from bone marrow may prove beneficial in stroke recovery, scientists at UC Irvine's Sue & Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center have learned.

Stem cells from teeth can make brain-like cells

April 30, 2014
(Medical Xpress)—University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to resemble brain cells, suggesting they could one day be used in the brain as a therapy for stroke.

There's life after radiation for brain cells

August 12, 2013
Scientists have long believed that healthy brain cells, once damaged by radiation designed to kill brain tumors, cannot regenerate. But new Johns Hopkins research in mice suggests that neural stem cells, the body's source ...

Tracking nanodiamond-tagged stem cells

August 5, 2013
A method that is used to track the fate of a single stem cell within mouse lung tissue is reported in a study published online this week in Nature Nanotechnology. The method may offer insights into the factors that determine ...

Stem cells help repair traumatic brain injury by building a 'biobridge'

October 3, 2013
University of South Florida researchers have suggested a new view of how stem cells may help repair the brain following trauma. In a series of preclinical experiments, they report that transplanted cells appear to build a ...

Migrating stem cells possible new focus for stroke treatment

May 27, 2014
Two years ago, a new type of stem cell was discovered in the brain that has the capacity to form new cells. The same research group at Lund University in Sweden has now revealed that these stem cells, which are located in ...

Recommended for you

Study finds harmful protein on acid triggers a life-threatening disease

July 27, 2017
Using an array of modern biochemical and structural biology techniques, researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have begun to unravel the mystery of how acidity influences a small protein called serum ...

CRISPR sheds light on rare pediatric bone marrow failure syndrome

July 27, 2017
Using the gene editing technology CRISPR, scientists have shed light on a rare, sometimes fatal syndrome that causes children to gradually lose the ability to manufacture vital blood cells.

Post-stroke patients reach terra firma with new exosuit technology

July 26, 2017
Upright walking on two legs is a defining trait in humans, enabling them to move very efficiently throughout their environment. This can all change in the blink of an eye when a stroke occurs. In about 80% of patients post-stroke, ...

Molecular hitchhiker on human protein signals tumors to self-destruct

July 24, 2017
Powerful molecules can hitch rides on a plentiful human protein and signal tumors to self-destruct, a team of Vanderbilt University engineers found.

Researchers develop new method to generate human antibodies

July 24, 2017
An international team of scientists has developed a method to rapidly produce specific human antibodies in the laboratory. The technique, which will be described in a paper to be published July 24 in The Journal of Experimental ...

New vaccine production could improve flu shot accuracy

July 24, 2017
A new way of producing the seasonal flu vaccine could speed up the process and provide better protection against infection.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.