New Study From CMU Could Help Minimize Cognitive Losses After Stroke

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Dunbar research

MT. PLEASANT (WWJ) – Gary Dunbar, director of the neuroscience program at Central Michigan University, believes his research team may have taken a step in the right direction toward promotING the recovery of the brain after damage caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

Dunbar, who was quoted in a feature by Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, says the method used in his research is innovative to the field.

“Our research uses a relatively new way of assessing cognitive problems after a stroke, a fairly recent technique to create a stroke in a mouse, and it uses adult stem cells to treat the stroke,” Dunbar said. “The combination of those three relatively new techniques combined makes it a fairly interesting and novel study.”

As part of the research, rats are injected in the brain with a hormone that temporarily constricts blood vessels that carry oxygen. By depriving the brain tissue of oxygen, the cells begin to die out, mimicking a stroke. This allows the team to assess cognitive learning problems that follow a stroke, such as memory difficulties.

To treat the stroke, the team injects bone-marrow-derived stem cells into the brain that produce proteins to reduce brain swelling and help damaged cells survive, function better or return to normal function faster.

In evaluating the experiment, Dunbar and his team discovered stroke rats that were injected with stem cells could perform tasks with significantly fewer mistakes than rats with strokes that did not receive the stem cell injections. In fact, Dunbar reports that stem cell-treated stroke rats could perform nearly as well as rats that did not have a stroke.

“The stem cells are producing proteins to help the brain work better,” Dunbar said. “The question we’re asking is if these stem cells can produce proteins to help the brain remember and reduce cognitive deficits. We believe these stem cells can do that.”

Dunbar credits lead author and CMU alumnus Steven Lowrance, ’13, for the success of this project. Dunbar works with a team of approximately 50 students every year in his neuroscience research. Many of Dunbar’s graduate and undergraduate students receive state and national recognition for their work in the field.

“It speaks highly of our program,” Dunbar said. “It’s a critical part of their education and a lot of young students in our program take advantage of it. I think that’s what we offer that undergraduates can’t get as readily at other major research universities. We’re very proud of integrating students into research.”

Caption: Gary Dunbar, director of the neuroscience program at Central Michigan University, and his research team are furthering research to promote the recovery of the brain after damage caused by stroke, traumatic brain injury, and neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Alzheimer’s.

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