The effects of brain damage due to trauma and disease can be devastating for those who suffer its consequences. People afflicted with brain damage can have a wide range of symptoms from minor memory or motor issues all the way to the loss of major brain function leading to a vegetative state or death. However, exciting developments in medical research relating to stem cells have offered promising possibilities for treating brain damage by regenerating injured neural structures.
Brain Damage from Alzheimer's
One of the concepts we have studied in chapter three, is the idea of neural plasticity following brain injury and degeneration and how scientists have attempted to develop methods of repairing damaged brain and spinal cord axons. An area that has seen rapid advances in potential treatments is one called stem cell therapy. Our textbook describes stem cells as cells that have "the potential to become a wide variety of specialized cells" (p.92) and the implications of stem cell malleability can be seen in stem cell therapy which "introduces new cells into damaged tissue in order to treat disease or injury" (Wikipedia).
While the concept of stem cell therapy has been around for many years, the field has begun to apply therapeutic techniques in human patients to treat various diseases and injuries. Even NFL players have sought stem cell treatment such as Payton Manning who recently received stem cell therapy in Europe (LA Times). While most stem cell therapy treatments for brain damage are still in very developmental stages many scientists in the field see promising potential in the not-so-distant future. A news article in The Independent discusses researchers in England studying the potential for stem cell therapy to repair brain damage and the hope that possible treatments may be on the foreseeable horizon. It is an exciting and possibly revolutionary field that one day may change the prognosis for people suffering from what was often thought of in the past as an irreversible condition.