Can the Brain Repair Itself?

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After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

Siddharthan Chandran

Multiple sclerosis (MS) affects the nervous system by chewing up the axons that connect neurons to one another, which slows, stops or simply randomizes the transmission of nerve impulses. At the Centre for clinical brain sciences at the University of Edinburgh, Siddharthan Chandran works in the emerging discipline of regenerative neurology -- exploring how injured or damaged neurons in the brain might actually be repaired. His research strategy uses MS and motor neuron disease (ALS, or Lou Gehrig's diesease) as primary disease models, combining laboratory and clinical activity to study brain injury, neurodegeneration and repair, using stem cells to model and test. His work, he says, "reflects the complexity of the brain. You can replace a kidney, but not a brain. One must remain careful and humble in the face of current knowledge." He is also director of the Anne Rowling Regenerative Neurology Clinic.

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