Brain-cell transplants are the most recent experimental epilepsy therapy


“It’s early, but it could be restorative,” says Cory Nicholas, a former laboratory scientist who’s the CEO of Neurona. “I call it activity balancing and repair.”

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 cut back their electrical exercise by secreting a chemical known as GABA.

Graves acquired 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 as she guided a ceramic needle into his hippocampus, dropping off the hundreds 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 an enormous change from the surgical procedures she performs most frequently. Usually, for unhealthy circumstances of epilepsy, she is looking for and destroy the “focus” of misbehaving cells inflicting seizures. She will minimize out a part of the temporal lobe or use a laser to destroy smaller spots. While this sort of surgical procedure can cease seizures completely, it comes with the chance of “major cognitive consequences.” People can lose recollections, and even their imaginative and prescient. 

That’s why Ben-Haim thinks cell remedy might be a basic advance. “The concept that we can offer a definitive treatment for a patient without destroying underlying tissue would be potentially a huge paradigm shift in how we treat epilepsy,” she says. 

Nicholas, Neurona’s CEO, is blunter. “The current standard of care is medieval,” he says. “You are chopping out part of the brain.”

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 consuming. 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 research to rely his seizures, most days Graves circles “none.”


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