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Pig Brain Cells May Have Cured Sea Lion’s Epilepsy In ‘Very Promising Approach’

by : Emily Brown on : 05 Jan 2022 17:51
Pig Brain Cells May Have Cured Sea Lion's Epilepsy In 'Very Promising Approach'Alamy

A procedure involving the transplant of pig brain cells has been branded ‘very promising’ for curing epilepsy, following a seemingly successful experiment with a sea lion.

Cronutt the sea lion underwent the experimental surgery in October 2020 after his health began to deteriorate as a result of his increasingly frequent epileptic seizures.

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The animal’s weight dropped by nearly one-third in a few months as several seizures a week left him unable to eat, each one causing shock waves through his injured brain and resulting in tremors and confusion.

In a bid to ease his suffering, Cronutt had healthy pig neurons transplanted into his damaged hippocampus. Now, more than one year on, he is seizure-free.

The effort was led by Scott Baraban, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, who has explained that Cronutt’s appetite and weight have returned to normal in the wake of the procedure, and he is also more social and able to learn new things.

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Karen Wilcox, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Utah, has described the therapy developed by Baraban and his team as ‘a very promising approach’, noting that it could one day offer hope to epilepsy patients.

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Though there are existing epilepsy drugs that work in the same way as the cells Cronutt received, which are meant to suppress the abnormal brain activity that gives rise to seizures, they can cause a number of unpleasant and mood-altering side effects, National Geographic reports.

Wilcox explained, ‘If you can really focus the application of the therapy right where the seizures are generated, you could spare the other parts of the brain from some of the side effects that we see with taking medications.’

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Though Cronutt’s case may be the start of a new treatment for epilepsy, it will likely be years before the procedure is attempted on humans.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University and went on to contribute to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming Senior Journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news, trending stories and longer form features.

Topics: Animals, Now, San Francisco

Credits

National Geographic
  1. National Geographic

    Pig brain cells may have cured a sea lion's epilepsy—are humans next?