X-Message-Number: 10690
Date: Tue, 03 Nov 1998 18:02:00 -0500
From: Jan Coetzee <>
Subject: Human Brain Transplantation Protocol

ource: Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
                                                  Posted 10/31/98

             Human Brain Transplantation Protocol
             Approved To Reverse Nerve And Brain

             LOS ANGELES (October 30, 1998) -- While growing cells in
             dishes has been done for more than a century, this old
technique is
             being applied in ground-breaking new ways, and with
             equipment, at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center's Neurofunctional
             Center. The goal is to produce cures for such previously
             conditions as spinal cord injuries, stroke, epilepsy, and

             The project was sparked by the recent discovery of human
brain cells'
             potential for regeneration, contradicting previous
             assumptions. "While it is true that brain cells don't
regenerate in situ,
             we have found that a very small number of brain cells,
harvested and
             placed into a special environment, can be stimulated to
             and that regeneration continues when the cells are
re-introduced into
             the brain," says Michel Levesque, M.D., Director of the
             Neurofunctional Surgery Center and an internationally known

             neurosurgeon at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

             Toomas Neuman, Ph.D., Director of Neurobiology at
             Medical Center, and Dr. Levesque are working together to
culture a
             number of carefully targeted brain cells from a patient,
             growth and regeneration in a carefully regulated
environment, and
             then re-introducing them into the patient, where the growth
             and effects healing and repair to previously irreparably
             brain tissue.

             "The implications of this are enormous. Right now we will
use cell
             harvesting and implantation to treat Parkinson's disease,"
says Dr.
             Levesque. "Treating neurodegenerative diseases involving
one type
             of neurotransmitter cells is comparatively straightforward
             introducing excitatory neurons or inhibitory neurons, into
a particular
             part of the brain. In other words, one type of cell to one

             "Treating stroke and spinal cord injuries with regenerated
cells is
             infinitely more complex," says Dr. Levesque. We have to
             grow, and re-introduce a complex mixture of cells to
restore a
             damaged circuitry. We're working on a human protocol for
             cord injury now, and hope to start treating patients with
             cells within the next six months."

             The process literally starts with brain surgery, says Dr.
             "For epilepsy patients who require surgery, we take a small
piece of
             the cortex, where some of the few brain cells capable of
             are located. We remove a few of those cells, store them in
our cell
             bank of neurons, and freeze them until we're ready to grow
them in
             petri dishes.

             Dr. Neuman oversees the growth stimulation part of the
             "Right now we have to remove the cells and put them into a
             environment to stimulate them to begin growing and
dividing. Our
             goal is to eventually be able to stimulate the cells
without removing
             them first," says Dr. Neuman. "The cells don't
             regenerate in the body -- that's why certain types of brain
injuries and
             illnesses are currently incurable or irreparable.

             "A variety of molecular biology tools are used to identify
             stimulate the cells," says Dr. Neuman. "We have to keep the
             cells in sterile, biologically stable incubators -- like
baby incubators
             -- to maintain a constant environment. When we're ready to
             them, we put them into a special bath that includes
different growth
             factors. Without either one, the cells don't regenerate. If
you have all
             the necessary things they divide and grow. If you don't
have them,
             these little guys die," he adds.

             "The work we're doing is based on solid scientific
foundations. It
             began years ago, with studies indicating that certain types
of birds
             could produce brain cells that would regenerate in the
             circumstances. The studies moved from birds to animals. The

             progression from animal brain cell regeneration to human
brain cell
             regeneration is the next logical step. When I began working
with Dr.
             Levesque we discovered we had a common interest -- our
             together actually stimulated the project," says Dr. Neuman.

             "When we finish developing our protocol, we'll be the first
to offer
             this treatment for stroke and spinal cord injuries," says
Dr. Levesque.
             "We have a lot of spinal cord injury patients who are
interested in
             this type of treatment." The human protocol is scheduled to
             completed in six months, at which time cell regeneration
             re-introduction treatments can begin on humans.

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