New stem cell methods may help brain injuries

A NEW method of helping bone marrow stem cells "mature" is pushing science closer to being able to treat brain injuries by creating specific cells capable of repairing damaged areas.

By modifying the surface of these cells and ensuring the proper environment, these otherwise easy-to-obtain marrow cells could drive brain regeneration.

Although this is only a small step forward, the hope is that these techniques could one day help treat those who have suffered brain damage, including those resulting from a stroke.

Nationally, there are 420,000 Australians living with the effects of stroke in Australia.

There are about 50,000 new and recurrent strokes each year, about 29,000 of those in Queensland and New South Wales.

National Stroke Foundation spokeswoman Professor Richard Linley said the research had the potential to help stroke patients, but was clearly in the very early stages of development.

Queensland University of Technology researcher Rachel Okolicsanyi said while the capability of these marrow stem cells has been understood for some time, this research into influencing how they mature could create techniques to convert them into brain or neural cells.

Ms Okolicsanyi, with supervisors Dr Larisa Haupt and Professor Lyn Griffiths , will now attempt to nail down a technique that will deliver routine results.

Ms Okolicsanyi's work was published in the journal Developmental Biology.

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