Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Brain Cells Grown In Laboratory

As reported in the UK's The Independent, scientists have successfully grown new brain cells with mice. I cannot express enough how excited I am about this development. Finally! I'll be able to replace the brain I lost years ago. I didn't mean to misplace it, but I set it down and got distracted. Anyway, when Bjorn Scheffler, a neuroscientist at the University of Florida, made the breakthrough I'm sure he wasn't hoping to inspire lame "lost brain cell" jokes. Instead, he was thinking of curing Dementia, Parkinson's Disease, and Epilepsy.

Until this point in time, there were no medical ways to recreate lost brain cells. Any neurological illness that ate away at the brain could be slowed, perhaps, with medications, but not stopped, and certainly it's debilitating affects could not be reversed. Now, history is being made.

What excites me most about this breakthrough is that my own disabilities could one day be repaired. I've learned to live with AD/HD. I'm a scatterbrained, absentminded art geek who is lucky he remembers to eat sometimes. Speaking of which...

OK, I'm back. Where was I? Right, scatterbrained. So I've learned to cope and will continue to prosper. Depression is a pain, but many years ago I decided that I was moody long before doctors told me I was depressed and tried to medicate me, so I just resolved myself to being moody again. But the Chronic Motor Tic Disorder robs me of time, pride, and money. I hate it. And since medications lit my neurons on fire and roasted them into oblivion, there is poetic justice to think that a medicine could make them grow back good as new.

Fantasy? Not according to the article. By identifying the "true stem cell progenitor" Dr. Scheffler and others where able to help the stem cell "generate brand new neurons" under lab conditions. They envision mass produced brain cells created for the sole purpose of repairing neurological disease. This is big news. I'll be interested to see if other labs can reproduce the results.

It will be years before we see applications of this new medical technology, but the scientists involved are quite enthusiastically optimistic that we will see these applications in human therapeutics in the very near future, perhaps even in pill form:

Another possibility is to use the technique as a model of natural brain repair so that scientists can test potential drugs for stimulating the re-growth of damaged nerves.

"We are already beginning the process of screening for compounds that will allow this to happen perhaps without sticking anything into our brains," Professor Steindler said.

Good idea, I say. I'm not so psyched about the idea of having electrodes inserted into my brain like those poor shlubs getting treated for Tourette's and Depression. And I'm probably less for the idea of having my cranium opened up so they can get in there and manually stimulate the area.

What I find fascinating about this development is how excited I am about it. I'm the guy who hates modern medicines. After all, medicines broke my mind. But I really reserve my loathing for psychotropic meds and find I trust the more physically targeted meds to be safer. These neuron building pills would be targeting physical conditions, not illusionaI ones. In addition, my three year old has Cerebral Palsey. We almost lost her when she was three days old. She's alive and well now, but developmentally slow and we are worried for her prospects in life. To think that a pill could turn things around for her seems like science fiction. I almost can't believe it to be true, but for her I'd believe it. I'd even pray for it.