Many patients have difficulty recovering from traumatic brain injuries, with atrophy and shrinking magnifying the impacts of the injuries – and few, if any, effective treatments available to prevent this additional damage. Stem cell therapy has shown promise in various studies, however, and now, researchers are using supercomputers to help investigate this novel treatment.
The research team, based at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), are working on the hypothesis that the degradation is caused by excessive inflammation – inflammation that can be countered with stem cells from bone marrow. “We know that the more brain tissue you lose, the worse you do in terms of neurocognitive outcomes,” said Charles S. Cox, Jr., director of the pediatric program at the McGovern Medical School, in an interview with Aaron Dubrow of the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC). “The idea is to interrupt that process to some degree, so that we have preservation of brain structures.”
Cox and his colleagues completed a first phase of trials to assess safety with pediatric and adult patients in 2014; a second phase began in 2013 (for pediatric patients) and 2016 (for adult cases) to assess whether the treatment successfully preserves brain tissue and function – and if so, how. To track these factors, the researchers used advanced brain imaging. Key among these techniques was diffusion MRI, which uses molecular diffusion within tissues to make precise measurements.
“With diffusion MRI, you actually get numbers and the numbers