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Shots of brain cells restore learning, memory in rats

Technique may someday ease radiation-related side effects for cancer patients, study suggests

12:00pm, February 5, 2015
Transplaneted cells

TRANSPLANT IN ACTION  Scientists replaced brain cells destroyed in irradiated rats with ones grown from human stem cells. Here, the mature transplanted cells coat a neuron with insulation (green).

Stem cells can help heal long-term brain damage suffered by rats blasted with radiation, researchers report in the Feb. 5 Cell Stem Cell. The treatment allows the brain to rebuild the insulation on its nerve cells so they can start carrying messages again.

The researchers directed human stem cells to become a type of brain cell that is destroyed by radiation, a common cancer treatment, then grafted the cells into the brains of irradiated rats. Within a few months, the rats’ performance on learning and memory tests improved.

“This technique, translated to humans, could be a major step forward for the treatment of radiation-induced brain … injury,” says Jonathan Glass, a neurologist at Emory University in Atlanta.

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