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Recruitment of endogenous neural stem cells to promote repair following acquired brain injury in children

Principal Investigator:
  • Freda Miller, University of Toronto
Team Members:
  • Donald Mabbott, The Hospital For Sick Children
  • Cindi Morshead, The Hospital For Sick Children
  • Paul Frankland, The Hospital For Sick Children
  • The W. Garfield Weston Foundation

Project Overview

In Canada, over 140,000 children and teenagers suffer a brain injury each year due to trauma, stroke, cerebral palsy, and brain cancer. Children are often left with permanent physical, psychological, and neurological problems. Currently, there are no effective medical therapies to help brain recovery and reduce disability following an acquired brain injury. Dr. Miller and her team hope to change this. With new scientific findings as a foundation, the team now know that they may be able to help repair the brain following injury using brain stem cells. Stem cells are special cells in the brain capable of producing new neurons and glial cells – the two main cell types that make up the brain. Medications and activities have been identified that can stimulate brain stem cells to make new cells – thereby encouraging brain repair after an injury. Metformin, a drug widely used to treat diabetes and metabolic disorders in children, is one such drug–which has been shown to encourage new cell growth that leads to improved learning and memory in mice. Physical exercise has also been shown to increase blood flow to the brain and increase the numbers of new brain cells, leading to improved mental ability in humans. The team wants to study ways to help stimulate the growth of new brain cells following brain injury in children and teenagers. They will do this by asking whether they can enhance the generation of healthy brain cells in response to injury by using drugs and/or physical exercise. To ask these questions, they will study both mice and humans, focusing upon a unique population of children with a brain injury.