A few weeks back, I wrote about the animal model of cerebral palsy. Although animal models have pitfalls, by and large, medicine has often advanced through wise interpretation of these models. Rats are often used because the scientist can do many experiments on a limited budget.
I always read the Journal of the Undersea and Hyperbaric Medical Society as soon as I receive it each quarter. So, I must have read this animal study when it came out last year, but alas, I forgot about it. I came across it again just recently and realized that I ought to make a few comments because this study has findings that are important to everyone interested in cerebral palsy.
The authors performed experiments on 180 rats! I can hardly imagine recruiting 180 patients for any kind of human study, let alone one that involves hyperbaric oxygen. In any case, the authors set up the cerebral palsy model in the rats and gave them one hyperbaric oxygen treatment daily for seven days. They carefully examined the hyperbaric-oxygen treated animals and compared them to the untreated ones and found that, within two weeks, neural stem cells had migrated into the cerebral cortex of the hyperbaric-treated animals and that, within four weeks, the treated animals actually had an increased number of neurons, i.e., the hyperbaric-treatment group actually grew brain tissue: the brain had partially repaired itself from the injury.
These results are really nothing short of astonishing. We know that the brain has limited regenerative powers. Here, however, after the severe damage caused by the experimental injury, prompt institution of hyperbaric oxygen not only stimulated neural stem cells to migrate into the damaged area, but these stem cells were able to differentiate into actual brain tissue, limiting the overall damage. To the best of my knowledge, no other intervention of any kind has ever made this claim for the injured brain.