Contrary to popular belief, recent studies have found that there are probably ways to regenerate brain matter.
Animal studies conducted at the National Institute on Aging Gerontology Research Center and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, for example, have shown that both calorie restriction and intermittent fasting along with vitamin and mineral intake, increase resistance to disease, extend lifespan, and stimulate production of neurons from stem cells.
In addition, fasting has been shown to enhance synaptic elasticity, possibly increasing the ability for successful re-wiring following brain injury. These benefits appear to result from a cellular stress response, similar in concept to the greater muscular regeneration that results from the stress of regular exercise.
Additional research suggests that increasing time intervals between meals might be a better choice than chronic calorie restriction, because the resultant decline in sex hormones may adversely affect both sexual and brain performance. Sex steroid hormones testosterone and estrogen are positively impacted by an abundant food supply. In other words, you might get smarter that way, but it might adversely affect your fun in the bedroom, among other drawbacks.
British scientists have developed the world’s first stem cell therapy to cure the most common cause of blindness. Surgeons predict it will become a routine, one-hour procedure that will be generally available in six or seven years’ time.
The treatment involves replacing a layer of degenerated cells with new ones created from embryonic stem cells. It was pioneered by scientists and surgeons from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London and Moorfields eye hospital.
This week Pfizer, the world’s largest pharmaceutical research company, will announce its financial backing to bring the therapy to patients.
The treatment will tackle age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of blindness. It affects more than 500,000 Britons and the number is forecast to increase significantly as people live longer. The disease involves the loss of eye cells.
A novel matrix of neural stem cells and a biodegradable polymer can quickly repair brain damage from stroke in rats. Within just seven days of injecting the concoction directly into the damaged part of the brain, new nerve tissue grew to fill stroke-induced cavities.
Scientists say that the key to the advance, published today in the journal Biomaterials, is the use of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA, which ensures that the stem cells remain in the area of stroke damage and establish connections with surrounding brain tissue. By reducing the number of stray stem cells, the system is likely to be safer as well as more effective than other methods, the researchers add.
Strokes, which occur due to bleeds or blocked blood vessels in the brain, cause some brain tissue to die. This dead tissue is then removed by the immune system, leaving a hole. “We would expect to see a much better improvement in the outcome after a stroke if we can fully replace the lost brain tissue, and that is what we have been able to do with our technique,” says Mike Modo, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College London, who oversaw the research.
Scientists have taken another important step toward using ordinary skin cells that are made to behave like embryonic stem cells to find treatments for conditions like Parkinson’s disease.
Researchers at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research in Massachusetts removed a stumbling block in using so-called induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPS cells, by taking out potentially cancer-causing genes.
Writing in the journal Cell on Thursday, the scientists said they then turned these iPS cells into brain cells involved in Parkinson’s disease.
The iPS stem cells could be made from a patient’s own skin cells, reducing the chances that the body’s immune system might reject the cells as it sometimes does with organ transplants.
Transplanting healthy cells made from iPS cells to replace cells damaged by disease or injury may be possible in the future. But a more immediate use for these cells may be in lab dishes testing the effects of new drugs, according to Dirk Hockemeyer, one of the Whitehead Institute researchers.
Two-year-old British girl Dakota Clarke can see for the first time after undergoing pioneering stem cell treatment in China.
Dakota, who was born blind, is the first British patient to undergo the new type of therapy.
The £30,000 treatment, which involves stems cells taken from an umbilical cord being fed into her forehead, has allowed her to see people, objects, colours and lights around her.
Dakota suffers from Septo-Optic Dysplasia, which means the optic nerve does not develop properly, and has responded quicker than expected to the treatment. Her parents, Wilma, 28, and dad Darren, 34, are hoping she will continue to improve and have a life time of sight.
Speaking from the Qingdao People’s Hospital in southern China, Mrs Clarke, from Newtownabbey. near Belfast, said: “We didn’t know if the treatment would work, and people kept telling us it was too experimental, but we had to do this.
“It’s been worth every single penny to see the changes in her.”
Mr Clarke added: “It’s nothing short of a miracle for us. She can see the world for the first time.
Scientists have found a way to make an almost limitless supply of stem cells that could safely be used in patients while avoiding the ethical dilemma of destroying embryos.
In a breakthrough that could have huge implications, British and Canadian scientists have found a way of reprogramming skin cells taken from adults, effectively winding the clock back on the cells until they were in an embryonic form.
The work has been hailed as a major step forward by scientists and welcomed by pro-life organisations, who called on researchers to halt other experiments which use stem cells collected from embryos made at IVF clinics.
Sir Ian Wilmut, who led the team that cloned Dolly the Sheep and heads the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at Edinburgh University where the work was done, said: “This is a significant step in the right direction. The team has made great progress and combining this work with that of other scientists working on stem cell differentiation, there is hope that the promise of regenerative medicine could soon be met.”
Stem cells have the potential to be turned into any tissue in the body, an ability that has led researchers to believe they could be used to make “spare parts” to replace diseased and damaged organs and treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes and spinal cord injury.
Because the cells can be made from a patient’s own skin, they carry the same DNA and so could be used without a risk of being rejected by the immune system.
A breakthrough by scientists could see dentures bite the dust.
Researchers have pinpointed the gene that governs the production of tooth enamel, raising the tantalising possibility of people one day growing extra teeth when needed.
At the very least, it could cut the need for painful fillings.
Experiments in mice have previously shown that the gene, a ‘transcription factor’ called Ctip2, is involved in the immune system and in the development of skin and nerves.
The latest research, from Oregon State University in the U.S., adds enamel production to the list.
The researchers made the link by studying mice genetically engineered to lack the gene.
The animals were born with rudimentary teeth which were ready to erupt but lacked a proper covering of enamel, the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences reports.
Researcher Dr Chrissa Kioussi said: ‘It’s not unusual for a gene to have multiple functions, but before this we didn’t know what regulated the production of tooth enamel.
‘This is the first transcription factor ever found to control the formation and maturation of ameloblasts, which are the cells that secrete enamel.’
The finding could be applied to human health and, if used in conjunction with fledgling stem cell technology, could one day allow people to grow replacement teeth when needed.