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Biomedical Engineering

The Biomedical Engineering blog is the place for conversation and discussion about topics related to engineering principles of the medical field. Here, you'll find everything from discussions about emerging medical technologies to advances in medical research. The blog's owner, Chelsey H, is a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) with a degree in Biomedical Engineering.

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Regeneration of the Mind

Posted July 16, 2007 3:16 PM by shanlax

Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, multiple sclerosis, and injuries to the brain or spinal cord - the list goes on. Diseases and disorders involving neural tissues affect many people. Before researchers broadened their horizons, few had an optimistic outlook when it came to a cure. In the adult body, cells called neurons are incapable of growth and repair. Without functioning neurons, electrical and chemical signals cannot be transmitted throughout the brain and on to other parts of the body.

Thanks to the advances in stem cell-based therapy, however, neural tissue repair and neural tissue regeneration are now possible. The key is the self-renewal and differentiation of stem cells, a class of cells which replicate themselves into cells with similar properties in order to maintain a pool of precursor cells. In turn, these precursor cells use natural processes to form cells such as neurons. Biomedical engineers can use stem cells in various ways, but let's start by discussing where these cells come from.

Embryonic or fetal tissue is the best known source of stem cells, largely because the scientific world has been engulfed in a political battle over their use. But did you know that adult stem cells can also be extracted from bone marrow and skin? By expanding these stem cells in cultures, neurological cell lineages can be obtained. Other sources of stem cells include the umbilical cord, the developing brain and bone marrow of adults, and the placenta.

Today, stem cells can be isolated and placed in conditions to form neural lineage cells which promote functional recovery after spinal cord injuries. Laboratories are trying different methods to culturing these tissues in order to determine the best approach. Research indicates that plated postpartum-derived cells (PPDCs) provide soluble and/or contact-dependant mechanisms which lead to neural progenitor survival, proliferation, and possibly differentiation. By definition, PPDCs are not embryonic stem cells.

Once cell culturing is complete, stem cells can be injected or infused into the body with a pharmaceutically-acceptable carrier. In the case of neurodegenerative diseases and injuries, this carrier can be delivered to the patient by implanting cells in the cerebral spinal fluid. Alternatively, delivery can be achieved through surgery upon the damaged area.

Are biomedical engineers using stem cells? Yes! At the Beijing Tiantan Puhua Hospital, researchers are practicing the process of obtaining stem cells from bone marrow. The cells are then cultured and proliferated into mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). There are many exciting possibilities in this area of research. Someday, neurodegenerative diseases and neurological tissue damage may have a cure.

Resources:

http://www.puhuachina.com/?gclid=CMyz3ufIiY0CFSgRGgod-g5opg

-Contains information on the Tiantan Puhua hospital, their research, and patient stories

http://www.freepatentsonline.com/20050032209.html

http://www.puhuachina.com/?gclid=CMyz3ufIiY0CFSgRGgod-g5opg

RPI Research in neural engineering

http://www.eng.rpi.edu/soe/directory_faculty_details.cfm?facultyID=thompd4

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Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Marysville, California. USA
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#1

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 12:50 AM

Coffee aroma, heavenly scent feather tickled my nose, eyes opening to greet the cup of coffee, not there! That was 7-years, 2-months, and 16-days ago per, this writing, when awakening from 4-days in coma following, Severe Traumatic Brain Injury (Horse accident).

Total memory loss, unaware of surroundings, the journey back to near normal life owed in most part to my "Angel" wife! Long term memory as an electronic engineer is intact possibly even better however, short term memory kicks me in the posterior each day robbing me, of simple items most other people take for granted such as, tieing shoes, color of socks in trying to match, making change in the store, and more.

Therefore, I have something to say regarding the article I just read, "Regeneration of the mind." It would not be anything "Good," to subject any Brain Injured person to further "HELL" in any attempt to recover what is imagined by healers to be lost! Speaking from experience of Brain Injury, only "Natural Recovery" and "Love" by those concerned (Family, Friends), in my case "Puppies, also!"

Animals have greater understanding and ready love for those, of people with injuries, than humans whom seem awkward in supplying! My Puppy is there for me at all time, comforting beyond words can ever express!

Simply, I am against Stem Cell Research especially, in the Fantasy "Regeneration of the Mind!" The Quality of any life is far greater, than Quantity of life! "Suffer not!" Every day, is the today life we live, smile, and laugh, at the mistakes of days gone! Quality!

67-years, and holding, by the Grace of GOD!

Ron G

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#2
In reply to #1

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 1:58 AM

I have a question about your condition/predicament?


When you lost your sense of smell was it complete and total, or do you have some smells that you can still smell?

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In reply to #2

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 4:35 AM

Initially, following my injury, all memory was basically gone. The sense, or smell of coffee aroma is how I awoke from coma in Intensive Care.

Other senses came into order such as, fever like freezing touch of the cover sheet, pain from sharp thorn (needle taped in arm) which, I pulled out.

Total memory loss of who I was, where, why, just an array of senses trying to cope with pain. These are memories retrospectively related, now that I have come quite far from being injured.

In hope that answers your question, and will be happy to answer more questions.

Ron G.

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#4
In reply to #3

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 4:43 AM

Thanks;

It's rare to find anyone that came out of a coma, and still able to recall what brought them out of it.

Did anyone do an MRI after you were alert?

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#7
In reply to #2

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 4:09 PM

A quick response to Adaminchains question about head injury and the sense of smell. I am capable of smelling only certain smells, there are a lot of things I can't pick up on the smell anymore since the accident.

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#6
In reply to #1

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 4:06 PM

Thank you to posting!

As far as this article goes I understand your feelings, however I myself had traumatic head injury back in Fall 2005 that kept me in the hospital for 23 days and I believe that research in this could be helpful.

Your right, help from loved ones can help you recover, but this is only to a certain extent. I was a very lucky person and I thank the medical staff and my friends and family who helped me through my accident.

However, I have seen people who have gone through traumatic brain injuries who don't recover. These people often have a hard time with their memory but also with other functions such as sight, movement, smell, etc. I don't remember my stay in the hospital or my accident but I do remember leaving and coming back to volunteer and seeing these people. In seeing the people and their situations I am looking to do research in this along with many other areas once I have my degree.

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#5

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

07/17/2007 1:26 PM

Thanks for posting this, shanlax. Like many people, I only knew about "stem cells" in the context of embryonic or fetal tissue.

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#8

Re: Regeneration of the Mind

08/13/2007 12:12 PM

Shanlax,

Thank you for a most informative posting. I do feel, however, the need to clarify one point. At this point in time, adult stem cells are not substitutes for embryonic stem cells. Adult stem cells are quite effective in the treatment of a few diseases (somewhere between 4 and 20 depending on how many different kinds of leukemia you include). The great limitation on adult stem cells is that they have not yet been completely differentiated. Research is promising, especially with mesenchymal stem cells, but this is, I think, only beginning to come into clinical trials. My knowledge is largely limited to the US and Western Europe, so I may be behind.

Embryonic stem cells are not currently effective for treating disease (nobody knows how to control them very well), but they are extremely good for research. The ethical problem is great, but, to paraphrase Thomas Merton, every time I fill my car's gas tank, I kill a child in the underdeveloped world, and I live with that. It may be good religion, but it is simply bad science to say we don't need embryonic stem cells at this time.

Tom

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