Medical Minute: Healing Brains and Bones

Posted 3/13 at 6:15pm

Scientist Rutledge Ellis-Behnke is trying to fix injured brains.

"There really has not been anything that will allow for the reconnection of disconnected parts of the brain," he said.

He's getting closer. By injecting tiny strings of amino acids in the brain, he's actually re-growing nerve cells. The strings form a framework for nerves to grow across.

"You inject this into the area that has been injured in the brain and it forms a gel, and it actually causes the brain to heal itself."

It worked on hamsters with lost vision.

"We saw healing of the brain, which we have never seen before. Seventy-five percent of the animals had returned to functional vision, so they had actual return of sight."

Across the country, Dr. James Cook is fixing another body part. His work to fix bad knees in dogs will soon help humans.

"The biggest problems right now with total joint replacements of any joint in both species are just the second you put it in, it's really degenerating. It's wearing out."

Instead of metal and plastic, Cook creates biological implants with living cells.

James Cook, PhD, added, "We take those cells and we actually grow them to start to make a tissue, and then we prepare them to go back in your body."

Before they're implanted, the cells are exercised in the lab.

"And then they actually transform from being cells that are just in a Petri dish to cartilage that would work in your knee."

The implants are already helping dogs like Maci. In humans, they'll also heal bad hips and hands.

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Katherine Kostiuk

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