Traumatic brain injury
recovery via petri dish
August 27, 2018
in the University of Georgia's Regenerative Bioscience Center have
succeeded in reproducing the effects of traumatic brain injury and
stimulating recovery in neuron cells grown in a petri dish. This makes
them the first known scientific team in the country to do so using stem
cell-derived neurons. The procedure, detailed in a new paper in Nature
Scientific Reports, has significant implications for the study and
treatment of such injuries.
Unlike other cells in the body, most neurons in the central nervous
system cannot repair or renew themselves. Using an agent called
glutamate that is released in high amounts in the brain after traumatic
injury, the research team recorded a concussion-like disruption of
neural activity in a dish containing dozens of minute electrodes.
Through these recordings, they then evaluated the activity and
influenced recovery by electrical stimulation.
This is Lohitash
Karumbaiah (center) and members of his laboratory.
"Once the neurons reach a
certain level of density in the dish, you begin to see what we call
synchronous activity in a very timed manner," said lead author Lohitash
Karumbaiah, assistant professor in University of Georgia's College of
Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Animal Dairy
Science. "Knowing we could re-create synchronized, brain-like activity
in a dish gave us the impetus to ask, 'What if we disrupt this rhythm,
and how can we recover from something like that?' "
In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first
deep-brain stimulation device--an electrical stimulation cap that
patients wear continuously--for treatment of Parkinson's disease.
Karumbaiah and his team hope that electrical stimulation could be a
clinically translatable approach for recovery from traumatic brain
injury, or TBI. The next step, he said, is to connect with external
collaborators to tailor electrical stimulation approaches with
biomaterials that can exploit neuroplasticity.
Such treatments could be highly beneficial, for example, to veterans.
Many veterans suffer from TBIs incurred through shock waves from
explosions, with no physical focal point of injury. "Drilling into the
brain randomly to access tissue in such cases makes no sense," said
Karumbaiah. "A wearable device that can administer fairly controlled
levels of relevant electrical stimulation can help these patients."
One of Karumbaiah's co-authors is Maysam Ghovanloo, professor of
electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of
Technology. Ghovanloo has led development of the Tongue Drive System,
which allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to control their
wheelchair or digital devices by moving their tongue. He has also
developed technologies for neural interfacing and implantable medical
devices. Ghovanloo will put his expertise in medical instrumentation to
work in developing devices for the team's pre-clinical studies.
have developed a unique approach for observing and guiding stimulatory
patterns in the brain at multiple levels, all the way from individual
neurons to the neural tissue, and eventually the entire brain,"
Ghovanloo said. "All while taking into account the animal behavior to
opportunistically apply stimulation when they are most effective."
According to Karumbaiah and Ghovanloo, electrical stimulation devices,
whether designed for implantation or wearable use, must be small and
power-efficient. They believe their approach will be clinically
practical because smart design and application of stimulatory regimens
can significantly reduce power consumption. "
"Because we've been recording from these neurons for a long time, we
know what the magnitude of the pulses or activities of these neurons
are," said Charles-Francois Latchoumane, a postdoctoral researcher in
Karumbaiah's lab. "Now we can mimic those routines by programming them
externally and feeding it back into the brain."