Groundbreaking stem cell brain implant helps fight epilepsy in rats

Severe epilepsy is very difficult to treat, but an experimental approach involving implanted stem cells in the brain represents a groundbreaking way to potentially stop seizures for good.

Carried out by researchers at Texas A&M University, the technique has yet to be tried on human subjects, but has proven highly successful on rats. Rats given the implants suffered 70 percent fewer seizures than those without. That figure could drop further with additional research.

The investigation is the first study of its kind. It demonstrated that grafting certain cells derived from human-induced pluripotent stem cells into the brain can help alleviate seizures, as well as improve brain function. The work targets temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE), the most common type of epilepsy in which seizures originate from the brain’s hippocampus. TLE is a non-genetic form of epilepsy, often resulting from an incident such as a traumatic head injury, brain infections, or fever-related seizures during childhood.

Around 40 percent of TLE cases are drug-resistant and one of the only available medical interventions is a type of surgery to remove the hippocampus entirely. Unfortunately, this approach can lead to both memory and mood impairments. That would not be necessary with the newly demonstrated approach.

As noted, right now this experimental approach has only been tested on rats. However, the researchers believe its findings could be applied to human subjects.

“For patient-specific cell therapy, one can take a skin biopsy or blood sample from a patient, convert patient’s skin fibroblasts or mononuclear blood cells into [induced pluripotent stem cells], then obtain GABA-ergic progenitors from [induced pluripotent stem cells] and transplant them into the epileptic foci in the brain of the patient,” Ashok Shetty, Professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine, told Digital Trends. “Such an approach is particularly attractive for people with drug-resistant epilepsy for long-term seizure control, and improving cognitive and mood function.

Moving forward, Shetty said that the long-term safety aspects of the treatment need to be examined. While this research is still a way off from being made available to human patients, it nonetheless represents an exciting step forward.

A paper describing the work was recently published in the journal PNAS.

Emerging Tech

Ex astris, scientia: Star Trek logo spotted on the surface of Mars

The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been boldly going to Mars and capturing images since 2005, and now it has spotted something where no man has gone before: a structure on the planet's surface which will look familiar to Trekkies.
Movies & TV

Prime-time TV: Here are the best shows on Amazon Prime right now

There's more to Amazon Prime than free two-day shipping, including access to a number of phenomenal shows at no extra cost. To make the sifting easier, here are our favorite TV series currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Movies & TV

The best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now (June 2019)

Amazon Prime Video provides subscribers with access to a host of fantastic films, but sorting through the catalog can be a major undertaking. Luckily, we've done the work for you. Here are the best movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Movies & TV

Skip the sunshine this summer and watch the best shows on Hulu

It's often overwhelming to navigate Hulu's robust library of TV shows. To help, we put together a list of the best shows on Hulu, whether you're into frenetic cartoons, intelligent dramas, or anything in between.
Movies & TV

Who needs sunshine? Stay inside and watch the best movies on Netflix instead

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

Adobe develops tool to identify Photoshopped images of faces

With deepfake videos making headlines, and campaigns against the Photoshopping of models, people are more aware than ever of the digital manipulation of images. Now Adobe wants to give tools to users to let them spot faked images.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Plant-based shoes and a ukulele learning aid

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

NASA’s Mars 2020 rover will pave the way for manned missions to Mars

Survival on Mars is a massive challenge for humanity. To cope with the highly variable temperatures, lack of oxygen and water, and high levels of radiation, the Mars 2020 rover will carry instruments to pave the way for human exploration.
Emerging Tech

Facebook builds virtual homes to train A.I. agents in realistic environments

Researchers at Facebook have created Habitat, which is a platform that enables rapid training for A.I. agents. They will receive thousands of hours of training in just a few minutes in the virtual homes.
Emerging Tech

Impossible Foods struggles to keep up with Impossible Burger demand

Red Robin and White Castle have reported Impossible Burger shortages, as it appears that Impossible Foods is struggling to keep up with demand. The company will be selling its meat-like patties in retail outlets within the year.
Emerging Tech

Pass the salt please: Table salt found on Jupiter’s moon Europa

Astronomers have spotted something unexpectedly familiar on the surface of Jupiter's moon Europa -- sodium chloride, better known as table salt. This suggests the under-ice oceans on Europa are salty and similar to our oceans on Earth.
Emerging Tech

Hubble captures explosive galaxy, the site of three recent supernovae

Hubble's latest image is of the spiral galaxy NGC 4051 which is notable for having played host to a large number of supernovae: the first seen in 1983 (SN 1983I), the second in 2003 (SN 2003ie), and the most recent in 2010 (SN 2010br).
Emerging Tech

The grainy texture of Saturn’s rings reveals clues to their origins

New analysis of data from Cassini shows that Saturn's rings are not smooth, but rather are grainy in texture. Scientists believe that tiny moons within the rings cause materials to cluster and form clumps and straw-like patterns.
Emerging Tech

The Very Large Telescope gets upgrade to aid its hunt for habitable exoplanets

The Very Large Telescope is growing even bigger. The latest addition to the telescope's suite of instruments is a tool called NEAR (Near Earths in the AlphaCen Region) which will hunt for exoplanets in the nearby Alpha Centauri star…