Cell Transplant Holds Significant Potential for Patients with Epilepsy
Chicago, May 6, 2013 - In a new paper published in Nature Neuroscience, a group of investigators at University of California, San Francisco suggest that an interneuron-based cell transplant holds therapeutic potential in animals with epilepsy, and offers real hope for its potential in humans.
Scott Baraban, PhD, Robert Hunt, PhD and colleagues report that injecting progenitors, or stem cells, of inhibitory neurons into the hippocampus of adult epileptic mice (the region of the brain necessary for learning and memory) reduced the frequency of seizures and restored behavioral deficits in spatial learning.
This study provides powerful preclinical evidence that stem cell transplantation should continue to be studied as a potential novel therapy for people with epilepsy.
In 2004, CURE granted Dr. Baraban a 1-year, $50,000 award to study whether transplanted stem cells can survive and functionally integrate into the brain of adult mice; in 2007, he was awarded another 1-year grant for $75,000. The goal of this grant was to use the transplantation technique he had validated and see if he could correct abnormal brain activity in a mutant mouse.
The experiments described in the current paper are a big step toward Dr. Baraban’s ultimate goal of developing a novel therapeutic strategy for patients with epilepsy. Using the techniques developed with his earlier CURE grants, he demonstrated that transplanting cells into adult mice with confirmed epilepsy resulted in decreased seizures and a resolution of several behavioral and cognitive deficits. It is important to note that transplantation occurred after epilepsy developed in these mice, giving this technique plausible therapeutic value for human patients.
Dr. Robert Hunt, the paper’s first author, was a recipient of the CURE Young Investigator Travel Award for the Gordon Research Conference in August 2012.
This work was initially supported by CURE and is currently supported by funds from the NIH and CIRM.