In neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease, patients progressively lose neurons as their symptoms worsen. Researchers in regenerative biology want to replace those neurons as a means of treating the disease. These new neurons would be able to communicate with existing neurons and respond to their changing environment.
“What regenerative medicine does is…shift the paradigm,” said Dr. Ole Isacson, director of the Center for Neuroregeneration Research at McLean Hospital. “Instead of something you add as a substance to intervene, you can replace cells that are dynamic.” The ability of these new neurons to interact with the rest of the brain allows for specific modulation of their activity.
In addition to these advantages, neuroregeneration can even help reverse some aspects of disease when early diagnosis is not an option.
“Using cells can restore function,” said Isacson. “The many opportunities that cell therapies offer are too good to ignore.”
Lea is a PhD student at MIT studying molecular and cellular neuroscience. She is interested in translational disease research and is currently examining the role of neuronal identity in Huntington's Disease. Lea graduated from Harvard with an AB in neurobiology and has interned with biotech startups in neuropharmacology and biomedical engineering.
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