Research from Stanford University School of Medicine has indicated that injecting stem cells after a stroke could help to restore movement in patients.
The study looked at inserting modified, human, adult stem cells directly into the brains of chronic stroke patients who had suffered a stroke between six months and three years before the injections started.
The team found that more than three-quarters of patients experienced headaches after injection, which is probably due to the nature of the procedure, as it involves drilling a small hole into the skull. However, no side effects were noted that could be linked to the introduction of stem cells and no life-threatening problems occurred at all.
Published in the online journal Stroke, the trial's results are promising, with patients reporting improvements in the motor functions following the procedure.
Each of the 18 participants were monitored with blood tests, clinical evaluations and brain imaging. Although stem cells themselves appear to not survive very long once implanted, patients in the study showed significant recovery within a month and continued to improve up to a year after surgery.
Most importantly, substantial improvements were seen in a number of widely accepted metrics of stroke recovery. Using the Fugl-Meyer test - which is used to measure movement deficits after a stroke - the team found that there was an overall 11.4-point improvement in motor functions.
The researchers suggest that the stem cells trigger lasting regeneration or reactivation of nearby nervous tissue when they are injected directly into the stroke site.
Dr Gary Steinberg, professor and chair of neurosurgery, conducted 12 of the procedures and said the results call for an expanded trial.
“This was just a single trial, and a small one,” cautioned Steinberg. “It was designed primarily to test the procedure’s safety. But patients improved by several standard measures, and their improvement was not only statistically significant, but clinically meaningful."
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