Science Questions

Sat, 9th Oct 2004

Part of the show Spinal Injuries, and Brain Repair

Question

Janice asked:

my father had a stroke 6 years ago, I'm very interested in cell transplant treatments. How far has this treatment gone?

Answer

There's a number of approaches which people are taking with stroke. In the first instance, people are very keen in trying to reverse the acute problems that happen in stroke. There's a big move now, that if people have a stroke, if you can catch it in the first 3 hours, you can try and remove the clot with various drugs to do that. If you can't do that then there is the issue of how you can help the brain to repair itself and so there's a lot of work that gone on to try and encourage recovery - in the case of your father that's the scene, the brain has past its most plastic, it can do most things when it's young, when it's older it still has an amazing capacity for recovery up to a certain extent. Then there is this new idea, which is to put back the bit of the brain that has been damaged with the stroke, by a transplant. Now the problem with that is that if you have had a stroke you've damaged a whole series of different cells which have made different connections n the brain, and what you would hope to do is to put back cells which are going to turn into right type of cells and the right numbers and make the right connections and at the moment that is some way off. We can put back cells in certain conditions if we want them to make one type and make one connection but the complexity of trying to repair the brain in stroke is actually rather more complicated than that. In terms of further recovery, generally speaking in neurology, we always talk about 2 years and say that what people have done after two years is pretty much how they're going to do after that. But having said that, obviously people like your father are always telling us that we're not always right with these general statements and recovery can happen many years after the initial insult.

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