Researchers from the University of California, Irvine developed a breakthrough cell therapy to improve memory and prevent seizures in mice following traumatic brain injury. The study, titled “Transplanted interneurons improve memory precision after traumatic brain injury,” was published in Nature Communications.
Traumatic brain injuries affect 2 million Americans each year and cause cell death and inflammation in the brain. People who experience a head injury often suffer from lifelong memory loss and can develop epilepsy.
In the study, the UCI team transplanted embryonic progenitor cells capable of generating inhibitory interneurons, a specific type of nerve cell that controls the activity of brain circuits, into the brains of mice with traumatic brain injury. They targeted the hippocampus, a brain region responsible for learning and memory.
The researchers discovered that the transplanted neurons migrated into the injury where they formed new connections with the injured brain cells and thrived long term. Within a month after treatment, the mice showed signs of memory improvement, such as being able to tell the difference between a box where they had an unpleasant experience from one where they did not. They were able to do this just as well as mice that never had a brain injury. The cell transplants also prevented the mice from developing epilepsy, which affected more than half of the mice who were not treated with new interneurons.