Can Stem Cells Help Restore Neural Function After Traumatic Injury?
There is currently little to be done to cure people who suffer from traumatic brain injury (neurotrauma), but research groups headed by Dr. Brian Cummings and Dr. Aileen Anderson, professors at the Stem Cell Research Center at the University of California, Irvine, are hoping to use human neural stem cells (hNSCs) to promote recovery of neural function after injury.
What is Neurotrauma or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)?
Neurotrauma, or damage to the brain incurred from a severe head injury, can cause the loss of important central nervous system cells and produce mild to severe symptoms ranging from headaches, blurred vision and confusion to behavioral changes, memory loss and seizures. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NIH), "Disabilities resulting from a TBI depend upon the severity of the injury, the location of the injury, and the age and general health of the individual."
""We needed a program that would allow us to quickly quantify large data sets with replicable results, and provide more accurate and consistent results than human-based quantification. For this reason, Volocity software has been critical in our work and we use it almost daily.""
How hNSCs Could Help Treat Neurotrauma
It's generally believed that there is little that can be done to reverse the signs of brain injury, but the research groups headed by Dr. Cummings and Dr. Anderson are investigating how these lost cells may be partially replaced by transplanting multipotent human neural stem cells (hNSCs), a specialized subset of stem cells which can form cells of the nervous system. If the cells that are lost when neurotrauma occurs can be replaced by hNSCs, it may be possible to restore function after injury.
Different Methods of Obtaining hNSCs can Affect Their Ability to Respond
hNSCs can be derived from embryonic, fetal, or adult sources. Dr. Cummings and Dr. Anderson's research teams are investigating how different methods of deriving and culturing these cells might affect their ability to differentiate and multiply in vitro and to ultimately respond to the injured microenvironment in vivo. Because the therapeutic use of hNSCs in neurotrauma will require immunosuppressants to prevent rejection by the host's immune response, the team is also looking to understand how these drugs might impact the performance of hNSCs.
Such questions are studied using time-lapse imaging for tracking stem cell proliferation, migration and fate over days or weeks in vitro toreveal individual cell responses to inflammatory cues, differentiation factors, or drug treatments.
Performing Analysis Using Specialized Tools
Because the accurate evaluation of human stem cell lineage and fate is essential for this research, Dr. Cummings and Dr. Anderson's research teams recognized the need for an efficient, automated method for analyzing the fate of hNSCs in vitro. To this end, they chose to use Volocity® 3D Image Analysis Software which enables them to reconstruct 3D images, identify specific cell markers and accurately distinguish between objects in overpopulated images.
"Our work required that we had an unbiased high-throughput quantification method," says Dr. Cummings. "We needed a program that would allow us to quickly quantify large data sets with replicable results, and provide more accurate and consistent results than human-based quantification. For this reason, Volocity software has been critical in our work and we use it almost daily."
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