Siddharthan Chandran: Can the damaged brain repair itself? | Summary and Q&A

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Siddharthan Chandran: Can the damaged brain repair itself?

TL;DR

In today's talk, I will discuss the potential of stem cells to repair the damaged brain and offer hope for patients with untreatable brain diseases.

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Questions & Answers

Q: What is the significance of the pictures comparing a brain with Alzheimer's disease to a healthy brain?

The pictures illustrate the obvious damage, atrophy, and scarring in the brain affected by Alzheimer's disease compared to a healthy brain. This highlights the extent of damage caused by brain disorders and the urgent need for effective treatments.

Q: How many people are currently living with brain diseases globally?

At any one time, there are approximately 35 million people living with brain diseases. The annual cost of these diseases globally amounts to 700 billion dollars, which represents more than one percent of the global GDP.

Q: Why are effective treatments lacking for brain diseases?

Despite the devastating impact of brain diseases on individuals and the significant societal problem they pose, there are currently no effective treatments available. This can be attributed to the complexity of drug development and the challenges in finding successful treatments through traditional methods.

Q: How does the brain repair itself naturally?

The brain has the ability to repair itself to some extent. Stem cells in the brain can lay down new myelin, which acts as insulation for damaged nerves. While this spontaneous repair occurs, the brain's ability to fully repair itself is not sufficient.

Q: How can stem cells be used in drug discovery for brain diseases?

Stem cells can be utilized in drug discovery for brain diseases by creating disease-specific motor nerve cells or myelin cells in the lab. By comparing the behavior of these cells to their healthy counterparts, researchers can identify potential drugs that can improve the health and function of the diseased cells, leading to new therapeutic possibilities.

Q: What are the two ways stem cells can be used in repairing the damaged brain?

The first way is by promoting and activating the existing stem cells in the brain to respond and repair damage. The second method involves transplanting stem cells into the brain to replace dying or lost cells. Both approaches have the potential to contribute to the regeneration and repair of the damaged brain.

Q: Can stem cells be used as a therapy for multiple sclerosis?

A clinical trial involving patients with multiple sclerosis explored the potential of using stem cells from the bone marrow as a therapy. Results showed that the stem cell infusion appeared to be protective, suggesting that the intervention promoted the natural repair mechanisms of the body rather than creating new nerves or myelin. This represents a promising proof of concept for stem cell therapy in multiple sclerosis.

Q: What is the overall message regarding the potential of stem cells in repairing the damaged brain?

The speaker expresses hope for the future of using disruptive technologies like stem cells to repair the damaged brain. The possibility of finding treatments and developing regenerative neurology is closer than anticipated. This offers hope for individuals affected by debilitating brain diseases like motor neuron disease and multiple sclerosis to lead more normal lives.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Brain disorders represent a major public health threat, with 35 million people living with these diseases and an annual cost globally of $700 billion.

  • The brain has the ability to repair itself, but not enough to counter the damage caused by diseases such as Alzheimer's, multiple sclerosis, and motor neuron disease.

  • Stem cells offer hope for repairing the damaged brain, both as a tool for drug discovery and as a potential form of therapy.

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