Former Aspenites aiding research in brain restoration | AspenTimes.com

Former Aspenites aiding research in brain restoration

Tim Mutrie

A former Aspen couple whose daughter died over a year ago – the result of complications associated with severe brain injuries – have created a foundation to raise awareness and funds for ground-breaking research in the field of brain restoration.

Mardie and Herman Edel founded the Margot Anderson Brain Restoration Foundation last January, with aims to better the quality of life for individuals with brain damage, such as victims of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and brain injury, as well as spinal cord damage.

Prevailing wisdom in the medical world had long concluded that brain restoration was a medical impossibility – until recently.

“There will come a time in the not too distant future when we will be able to get the brain to function again to a certain extent,” said Herman Edel. “The scientific world has realized that there are possibilities to restore brain function … our mission is to alert the world, that maybe, something can be done to salvage the lives of these people. The second part of our mission is to tell the world that this type of research needs financial support.”

Herman Edel served as mayor of Aspen for two terms, from 1979 through 1983, though the couple now lives in Ashland, Ore.

“We knew that she could beat the physical injuries, but we didn’t know if she could beat the brain injuries,” Edel said of Margot’s prognosis shortly after a November 1994 car accident left her with a brain injury. “And the third day after the accident, the lead doctor said we would have to do everything for Margot for the rest of her life. But we refused to accept that, of course.”

Following the accident, the Edels searched for alternative treatments for their daughter, but mostly encountered programs dedicated to helping families cope with their loved ones’ limitations, as opposed to seeking out possible remedies.

“We were seeking treatment alternatives all the while, but didn’t find anything positive until after she died,” Edel said.

“There was some sort of cognitive awareness there, but the fact of the matter is that the damaged brain degenerates and then the whole body shuts down, and she died,” Edel explained.

Shortly after Margot’s death in June 1998, the Edels were introduced to the work of Dr. Kondziolka, of the University of Pittsburgh, who had been conducting research on brain restoration.

The process, which involves transplanting live brain cells, or neurons, into stroke or brain trauma victims, was successful in a study done on 12 stroke patients. All 12 subjects demonstrated increased brain activity following the procedure, Edel said.

“We met with Dr. Kondziolka and our eyes were awakened to possible miracles,” Edel said. “They’re proven if a brain cell dies as a result of trauma, that other brain cells can take over the duties of those dead cells and function normally.”

Kondziolka now plans to include 80 patients in a follow-up study, Edel said, adding that similar research is being conducted at the University of South Florida and at Stanford.

Last spring, the newly founded Margot Anderson Brain Restoration Foundation made its first grant to the University of Pittsburgh to help fund Kondziolka’s further studies.

“There may be other foundations supporting this type of research, but we have not found any,” Edel said, “and this type of research is very expensive.”

For information about the foundation, reference its Web site at http://www.brainrestoration.com.

“The foundation is bigger than us,” Edel said. “We solicit, above all, the involvement of people. Come help us in this battle.”


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