Radiation therapy utilizes high-energy radiation to shrink and kill cancer cells, but it may be doing much damage to the brain. Although radiation therapy has been the standard of care for patients with brain cancer, it can have severe and devastating side effects such functional learning and memory loss that is progressive, debilitating, and adversely impacts quality of life.

A new development in regaining cognition is the use of stem cells. Studies show that stem cell therapy may be the diagnosis in restoring cognition for patients with brain cancer.

Immature stem cells found in bone marrow, blood stream, and in umbilical cords that later develop into blood cells. Because stem cells can be damaged in certain cancer treatments, hospitals are developing techniques to add healthy stem cells back into your body post treatment.

A recent study published in Cancer Research, reported results of researchers studied rats exposed to cranial radiation. They followed up with their research with human neural stem cell transplants. Significant levels of these stem cells survived and converted into brain cells or neurons. Cognitive function also greatly improved compared with the control rats who did not receive stem cell transplantation. Their findings pave the way for human safety trials to be conducted within a few years.

This is one more example of how stem cells can provide innovative treatments for central nervous system diseases, especially repairing of damaged neurons from acquired brain injury such as stroke as well as from neurodegenerative diseases such as dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.