The procedure of transplanting brain cells from pigs has been called “Branding”. ‘very promising’Following a seemingly successful experiment using a sea lion to cure epilepsy, it is now being used as a treatment.
After his increasing number of epileptic seizures, Cronutt, the sea lion, underwent experimental surgery in October 2020.
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.
Cronutt had his brains transplanted from pigs to relieve his suffering. Cronutt is now seizure free after more than one year.
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.
Karen Wilcox, University of Utah Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology, described the therapy Baraban and his colleagues as ‘a very promising approach’It could offer hope for epilepsy patients, it was noted.
Although epilepsy drugs exist that function in the same manner as Cronutt’s cells, and are intended to suppress abnormal brain activity that causes seizures, there are side effects that can be unpleasant or mood-altering. 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.’
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.