Keith Black

Performs 200-300 neurosurgeries a year. He’s a surgeon. He’s dona bout 7,000 operations for brain tumors. He’s also a researcher to try and find better treatments for patients with disorders in the brain. 99% of the procedures that we practice today started in his lifetime. It started with Egyptians, recorded how to relocate a shoulder, figured out that language mapped to the left side of the brain. If you went to a doctor in the 1940s he was more likely to do you harm than good.

When he grew up he was a fan of Star Trek, there was one episode when the Enterprise came back to the 20th century. Showed a clip that shows Bones arguing with a 20th century doctor, calling him a barbarian for wanting to drill a hole in the patients head to find the cause of the pulse slowing.

Most promising development in the past 10 years is stem cells. What isn’t really discussed is the problem of trying to use embryonic stem cells in the treatment of humans. They’re from a person, so they are rejected by the new patient. The other big problem why they won’t be used in the next 5-10 years is that the cells are immortal, meaning they keep dividing and dividing, which is the same characteristics of cancer. They can cause cancer. (I hadn’t heard of this?)

We had an ‘aha’ moment when looking at learning at behaviour in two sets of rats. One set was put in a regular cage, the other rats were put in a cage with mazes and other engaging things. They found the rats in the fancy cage had more neurons and more connections between them. The first thing that changed in the brain was the immune cells in the brain, and it was the immune cells that then called the natural stem cells to the areas of learning and made new neurons. Our immune system is guiding the stem cells. The immune system is directing our ability to learn, and our ability to create new memories. It gives us the ability to use the immune system to direct stem cells in the brain without ever taking them out of the brain.

Patients with immune disorders, like the bubble baby, also had learning disorders. There’s a rat line where they can immunize and reverse Alzheimer’s disease in these rats. If you give Alzheimer rats a vaccine that can activate a particular immune cell in the rain, it can reverse the disease. The same thing could also occur in rats in strokes. Their ability to intervene clinically in a stroke is only good for 3-6 hours after a stroke, if you don’t get there in time, you miss the opportunity for any therapeutic treatment. But using these immune-directed stem cells they can actually regenerate.

They hope to do clinical trials for these brain-based vaccines within the next 18-24 months. (!) In the most aggressive form of brain cancer, they can stimulate the immune system to attack tumors. They increased the two-year survival rate from 8% to 42%.

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