Developments in the field of stem cells is happening almost every other hour nowadays. Recently, researchers from the USA and Canada have published on human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-derived oligodendrocyte progenitors and how they have the ability to remyelinate the brain and rescue behavioral deficits following radiation.
This article talks about the derivation of neural progenitors to treat brain injury from ESCs following radiation therapy. Brain tumors are by far the most sensitive tumors and one of the most dangerous and life-threatening forms of cancer. However, a lot of progress has been made over the years in the treatment of brain tumors by surgery or by radiation therapy.
Radiation therapy is a powerful tool used to contain or get rid of many cancers, especially brain cancers. But the side effects of radiation therapy are almost equal to the adverse effects of the brain tumors itself! Significant and long-term side effects including cognitive decline and impairment of motor coordination are bound to happen due to radiation. Depletion of oligodendrocyte progenitors and demyelination are major pathological features that are particularly pronounced in younger individuals and severely limit therapeutic options.
The researchers derived oligodendrocytes from hESCs and tested whether these functionally remyelinate the brain after irradiation in rats. Interestingly, they found that upon transplantation of these hESC-derived oligodendrocyte progenitors, they migrate throughout the major white matter tracts resulting in both structural and functional repair. In addition, behavioral testing showed complete recovery of cognitive function while recovery from motor deficits required concomitant transplantation into the cerebellum.
Hence, in the future, just injecting stem cells into your brain could prove to be a treatment for injury following radiation.
The original publication can be accessed here.