Brain-cell transplants are the most recent experimental epilepsy therapy


“It’s early, however it could possibly be restorative,” says Cory Nicholas, a former laboratory scientist who’s the CEO of Neurona. “I name it exercise balancing and restore.”

Starting with a provide of stem cells initially taken from a human embryo created by way of IVF, Neurona grows “inhibitory interneurons.” The job of those neurons is to quell mind exercise—they inform different cells to scale back their electrical exercise by secreting a chemical referred to as GABA.

Graves obtained his transplant in July. He was wheeled into an MRI machine on the University of California, San Diego. There, surgeon Sharona Ben-Haim watched on a display screen as she guided a ceramic needle into his hippocampus, dropping off the 1000’s of the inhibitory cells. The wager was that these would begin forming connections and dampen the tsunami of misfires that trigger epileptic seizures.

Ben-Haim says it’s a giant change from the surgical procedures she performs most frequently. Usually, for unhealthy instances of epilepsy, she is looking for and destroy the “focus” of misbehaving cells inflicting seizures. She will lower out a part of the temporal lobe or use a laser to destroy smaller spots. While this type of surgical procedure can cease seizures completely, it comes with the chance of “main cognitive penalties.” People can lose recollections, and even their imaginative and prescient. 

That’s why Ben-Haim thinks cell remedy could possibly be a elementary advance. “The idea that we will provide a definitive therapy for a affected person with out destroying underlying tissue could be probably an enormous paradigm shift in how we deal with epilepsy,” she says. 

Nicholas, Neurona’s CEO, is blunter. “The present normal of care is medieval,” he says. “You are chopping out a part of the mind.”

For Graves, the cell transplant appears to be working. He hasn’t had any of the scary “grand mal” assaults, that sort can knock you out, since he stopped ingesting. But earlier than the process in San Diego, he was nonetheless having one or two smaller seizures a day. These episodes, which really feel like euphoria or déjà vu, or an absent clean stare, would final so long as half a minute. 

Now, in a diary he retains as a part of the examine to depend his seizures, most days Graves circles “none.”



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