Researchers at the University of Georgia’s Regenerative Bioscience Center have succeeded in reproducing the effects of traumatic brain injury and stimulating recovery in neuron cells grown in a petri dish.This makes them the first known scientific team in the country to do so using stem cell-derived neurons. The procedure, detailed in a new paper in Nature Scientific Reports, has significant implications for the study and treatment of such injuries.Unlike other cells in the body, most neurons in the central nervous system cannot repair or renew themselves. Using glutamate, an agent that is released in high amounts in the brain after traumatic injury, the research team recorded a concussionlike disruption of neural activity in a dish containing dozens of minute electrodes. Through these recordings, they then evaluated the activity and influenced recovery by electrical stimulation.“Once the neurons reach a certain level of density in the dish, you begin to see what we call synchronous activity in a very timed manner,” said lead author Lohitash Karumbaiah, assistant professor in University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Department of Animal and Dairy Science. “Knowing we could recreate synchronized, brainlike activity in a dish gave us the impetus to ask, ‘What if we disrupt this rhythm, and how can we recover from something like that?’”In 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first deep-brain stimulation device — an electrical stimulation cap that patients wear continuously — for treatment of Parkinson’s disease. Karumbaiah and his team hope that electrical stimulation could be a clinically translatable approach for recovery from traumatic brain injury, or TBI. The next step, he said, is to connect with external collaborators to tailor electrical stimulation approaches with biomaterials that can exploit neuroplasticity.Such treatments could be highly beneficial, for example, to veterans. Many veterans suffer from TBIs incurred through shock waves from explosions, with no physical focal point of injury. “Drilling into the brain randomly to access tissue in such cases makes no sense,” said Karumbaiah. “A wearable device that can administer fairly controlled levels of relevant electrical stimulation can help these patients.”One of Karumbaiah’s co-authors is Maysam Ghovanloo, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Ghovanloo has led the development of the Tongue-Drive System, which allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to control their wheelchair or digital devices by moving their tongue. He has also developed technologies for neural interfacing and implantable medical devices. Ghovanloo will put his expertise in medical instrumentation to work in developing devices for the team’s preclinical studies.“We have developed a unique approach for observing and guiding stimulatory patterns in the brain at multiple levels, all the way from individual neurons to the neural tissue, and eventually the entire brain,” Ghovanloo said. “All while taking into account the animal behavior to opportunistically apply stimulation when they are most effective.”According to Karumbaiah and Ghovanloo, electrical stimulation devices, whether designed for implantation or wearable use, must be small and power-efficient. They believe their approach will be clinically practical because smart design and application of stimulatory regimens can significantly reduce power consumption. ““Because we’ve been recording from these neurons for a long time, we know what the magnitude of the pulses or activities of these neurons are,” said Charles-Francois Latchoumane, a postdoctoral researcher in Karumbaiah’s lab. “Now we can mimic those routines by programming them externally and feeding it back into the brain.”For more information about the UGA Regenerative Bioscience Center, visit rbc.uga.edu.
View Gallery (2 Photos)Philip Welch may not be used to celebrating extra points, but his overtime PAT Saturday gave the Badgers plenty of reason to cheer.Welch’s kick wasn’t very long, but it was enough to give Wisconsin a 36-35 overtime win over Cal Poly.It was extra points that got UW into that situation to begin with. Mustang kicker Andrew Gardner missed three extra points Saturday, the last one after Cal Poly scored first in overtime, as the Badgers launched a comeback victory.“The way the season has gone, we’ve been emphasizing the finish, the finish, the finish,” head coach Bret Bielema said. “And you can’t get more of a finish than an overtime win.”Gardner’s second missed attempt kept the Mustang lead at eight points after a touchdown with 7:55 left in the game.Down the entire game, Wisconsin found itself still trailing by eight points when it got the ball with four minutes to play at its own 11-yard line after the defense forced a critical three-and-out from Cal Poly.Quarterback Dustin Sherer scrambled for a 22-yard gain and running back John Clay ran for a 27-yard gain on third-and-one to set up a Badger first-and-goal at the Mustang 3-yard line with under two minutes to play.“He was able to make plays when it was time to make plays,” running back P.J. Hill said of Sherer’s scramble. “It was a real crucial situation, and he made something out of it.”Hill rushed for a touchdown on first down, cutting the lead to two points. Wisconsin called the same play on the critical two-point conversion and Hill scored to tie the game at 29.“We’ve got big bodies, and we wanted to lean on them,” Bielema said of the play call.“I think it took Paul Chryst about .5 seconds to call that two-point conversion play because he knew what was there and what was going to be there.”After Jake West missed his 46-yard field goal attempt with eight seconds left in the game, the two teams headed to overtime.Things didn’t start well in the extra period. Cal Poly scored on the first play of overtime when quarterback Jonathan Dally connected on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ramses Barden.For the third time in the game, however, Gardner’s kick went too far to the right, and when the kick hit the upright the Badgers knew they had a chance to steal a victory.After Clay scored on a 6-yard run three plays later, it was all up to Welch to win the game.“Hoping not to miss it,” Welch said, “because I probably would have been killed or something.”And after the freshman converted his kick, all that was left to do was celebrate.“I was just trying to hit it, like any other kick,” Welch said. “PAT’s — you’re supposed to make every one.”For four quarters, the Mustangs gave the Badgers a scare.Cal Poly controlled the ball for nearly twice as long as Wisconsin and finished the game with 276 rushing yards.“They did a good job executing,” linebacker Culmer St. Jean said. “They did a good job mixing up the plays and keeping us on our toes.”The Mustangs also converted on nine-of-17 third-down attempts.“Cal Poly’s got a good offense and they run the ball the majority of the time. … It was something we’ve never seen before,” defensive lineman Mike Newkirk said.Dally’s 2-yard run with just under five minutes left in the first half put Cal Poly up 20-7. UW was able to cut the deficit, however, when wide receiver Nick Toon caught his first career touchdown pass with 28 seconds left in the half.A Gardner field goal extended the lead in the third quarter, but Hill scored on a 10-yard run to cut the lead to two points late in the third quarter.With Cal Poly about to attempt a field goal on its next possession, however, UW got called for a penalty, allowing the Mustangs to convert a fourth down that led to James Noble’s touchdown that put the score at 29-21.It was the second straight week the Badgers had to muster a come-from-behind win. Last weekend Wisconsin erased a 21-7 halftime deficit in its win over Minnesota.Though Cal Poly is a Football Championship Division team, the Mustangs entered the game with an 8-1 record on the season.With the win, Wisconsin finishes the regular season with a 7-5 record.