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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 00:31 GMT
Testicle tissue could halt stroke damage
brain scan
Strokes cause widespread damage to brain cells
Transplanting cells from the testicles into the brain could help some patients recover from strokes, say researchers.

A certain type of cell, called a Sertoli cell, appears to release chemicals which can protect brain cells from being destroyed in the wake of a stroke.

The researcher results, from the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Baltimore, US, were delivered to the Society of Neuroscience meeting in New Orleans and reported on the New Scientist website.

Sertoli cells line tiny tubes in the testis in which sperm develop.

Neuron
Brain cells commit suicide
The chemicals produced by the cells to make this happen seem to have a beneficial effect on the cells most at risk during and after a stroke.

A stroke happens when the blood supply to a group of brain cells is interrupted, sometimes due to a blood vessel becoming blocked with a stray clot.

This interruption causes the death of a group of brain cells - but in the hours afterwards, these cells trigger a chain reaction of cell suicide in surrounding tissues.

Once it has happened, this damage is irreversible.

Halting this knock-on damage would greatly limit the overall level of handicap suffered by stroke victims.

Committing suicide

The lead researcher, Cesar Borlongan, used rat cells grown in a culture dish to reproduce the effects of a stroke.

However, when Sertoli cells were introduced into the dish, the number of brain cells which "committed suicide" were reduced.

Borlongan's colleague, Paul Sandberg from the University of South Florida College of Medicine, in Tampa, has now completed the first tests in live rats.

Injections of Sertoli cells into a specific region of the brain within a day of a stroke left the rats with less severe movement handicaps.

Borlongan believes he has identified the particular chemical which is involved in protecting the brain cells.

And the advantage of Sertoli cells is that they do not provoke a response from the immune system, so could be used to help female stroke victims as well as male patients.

However, the scientists say that this technique would probably only be of use in stroke patients with damage in one particular area, the basal ganglia.

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Hope of Parkinson's 'cure'
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