This was a huge surprise for us.
Why is that? Because this looks exactly like a stem cell culture, with large green cells surrounding small, immature cells. Stem cells are cells capable of transforming into any type of cell in the body. The adult brain has stem cells but they are very rare and are located in small, distant niches in the depths of the brain. Therefore, it was surprising to find this type of stem culture in the superficial part of the brain that we had in the operating room that was swollen.
And there was another intriguing observation: normal stem cells are very active, they divide over and over again very quickly. And they never die, they are immortal. But these cells behaved differently. They would divide slowly and die after a few weeks. So we were faced with a strange new population of cells that looked like stem cells but behaved differently.
And it took a long time to figure out where they came from.
They came from a particular group of cells, which all have in the brain, but which represent only 4% of your brain cortical cells. They play a very important role during the developmental stage.
Why are they still in your head now? We don't know that.
We think they can participate in brain repair because we find a higher concentration close to the brain lesions.
The only thing that is clear is that perhaps we were faced with a potential new source of cells to repair the brain. All that was left was to prove it.
So, in order to prove it, we asked ourselves: "What would happen if we replanted these cells in a normal brain and what would happen if we replanted the same cells in a damaged brain?"
In the first case, we replanted these cells into the normal brain and saw them disappear completely after a few weeks, as if they were not needed there and then simply disappeared.
In the second case, we suffered a lesion, we replanted exactly the same cells and, in this case, they remained and became mature neurons.
But we couldn't stop there, of course.
We experimented with monkeys with injured brains, which were destined to die, because they were no longer able to get food in their natural habitat, and after replanting the cells, after a few weeks they recovered incredibly all their functions.
Now the biggest obstacles are the laws. Yes, because starting from these extraordinary results you have to fill about two kilos of papers and forms to be able to carry out this type of experimentation.
In a few years we hope to change the lives of millions of people completely.