Director of Neurosciences Gary Dunbar and other researchers within the department have been hard at work researching recovery methods for stroke victims.
The research, aimed at alleviating the effects of brain damage caused by stokes, traumatic brain injuries and other diseases, uses rats as test subjects.
By injecting the rats with hormones to mimic the effects of a stroke, the research team can then inject protein-rich stem cells to reduce swelling of the brain, ultimately allowing the cells to survive. The results of the experiment were positive, revealing significant improved brain functionality in the rats who received stem cell injections.
Central Michigan Life reached out to Gary Dunbar, lead researcher for the project and director of the neuroscience department, to speak about the importance of the research and what can be gained from further developments.
How long have you been working on this project?
Gary Dunbar: We started planning this project about four years ago. Dr. Steve Lowrance (now a postdoctoral fellow at Kent State University) took a major role in helping to design and conduct the project as a part of his Ph.D. in neuroscience at CMU. The actual project took about three years to complete, because prior to conducting the actual study, we had to test a new vasoconstriction hormone technique for producing the stroke in addition to pilot work to determine which area of the brain would be optimal for delivering the stem cells.
Where else has it been used?
GD: To our knowledge, we are the first to look at this type of stem cell therapy in the model we chose to use.We hope that other investigators will replicate these findings and/or build upon them to further refine ways to use adult stem cells for treating longer-term cognitive deficits following stroke.
What do you hope to achieve with the project?
GD: Ultimately, our hope is to help assist in a collective effort to find an effective treatment for stroke that will help the millions of people who suffer from learning or memory deficits that can occur after certain types of stroke. In the shorter term, we hope that the information we gleaned from this study can be used by other investigators to push the envelope of discovery.
How much were the funding costs for the project?
GD: It is difficult to put an exact price tag on this study. Portions of this study, such as devising the optimal types of stem cells, have been utilized in several other studies we conduct at CMU’s Field Neurosciences Laboratory for Restorative Neurology. My best estimate for the total cost of this project would be in the neighborhood of $50,000.
Who else was involved with the researching of the project?
GD: Neuroscience research is a cooperative adventure, and there were many people who contributed to this study, even beyond those whose contribution warranted authorship on the paper. However, the lion’s share of the credit for the project should go to Lowrance who guided the day-to-day operations of the project superbly.
What is the next step in the research process?
GD: My colleagues and I have been working on a new way to produce what are called “induced pluripotent stem cells.” These are adult stem cells that have all the positive properties of embryonic stem cells, but many other advantages. We plan to try these new stem cells in a more severe stroke model. We think they may prove to be even more efficacious than anything we’ve tried thus far.