Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) are horrific in their potential to leave the victim with serious types of disabilities ranging from the inability to recall new events with the loss of short-term memory as in anterograde amnesia, to the inability of expressing a full-range of intellectual capacities because of a paralyzed body as in locked-in syndrome. TBI is so alarming because the full extent of injuries and disability takes weeks or even months to ascertain; the suspense can feel like a devil’s idea of Christmas. TBI strikes the vessel that holds our personalities, memories, and potentials – the brain. Victims and their families are left with few options for treatment. Traditionally, many types of brain injury have been regarded as incurable. But researchers such as Dr. Venkataramana of India intend to prove that maxim of hopelessness as wrong.
Dr. Venkataramana is the chief neurosurgeon at BGS Global Hospital in India and has taken the baton in the research to determine if stem cells can treat TBI successfully. His team injected millions of stem cells into a 27-old patient who suffered severe TBI from a road accident. Initially in a coma for three months, the patient suffered from a diffuse axonal brain injury, the same injury that afflicts victims of shaken baby syndrome. The daughter of two hard working parents, the patient was left severely disabled and bed-ridden. Her parents quit work to become full-time caretakers.
One month after the treatment, the young woman’s improvements were astounding. Regaining consciousness, she began talking and was able to recognize her loved ones. Thanks to the stem cell treatment, the patient has regained the ability to move her limbs. Months of being bedridden had left her muscles weak. Doctors are hoping that, with additional therapy, she can make even further gains.
Dr. Venkataramana and his team used stem cells from bone marrow for the TBI treatment. In recent years, adult bone marrow stem cells have shown considerable promise in the treatment of TBI. Stem cells have the ability to multiply almost indefinitely, unlike other cells in the body, which can multiply only a few times before dying.
This ability to multiply has attracted the attention of researchers who hope to use the cells to repair damaged parts of the body. In recent years, however, researchers have found that adult bone marrow contains more stem cells than previously thought. These stem cells can travel to other parts of the body and produce different, specialized cells. Plus they have one benefit not offered by controversial embryonic stem cells: the recipient can also be the donor, virtually eliminating the risk that the transplanted stem cells will be rejected.
Despite the promise of stem cells for the treatment of TBI, conventional treatments are still woefully expensive. It will take time before a cure becomes a first-line response rather than a promising hope. Until that time, if you are caring for a loved one disabled due to TBI, contact our office. We may be able to help you answer the financial challenges that lie ahead.