A team of American scientists have discovered a new type of stem cell which may help stroke sufferers recover faster.
Researchers from the University of Minnesota confounded previous beliefs that the human umbilical cord only made stem cells that are found in blood.
Experiments on rats showed that the newly discovered primitive stem cells are capable of developing into several types found all over the body – including "neuron-like" cells usually found in the brain.
These helped the rats reduce the size of their brain lesions and prompted an unexpected clustering of the host's nerve fibres in the brain, which helped the rats regain movement.
"We are excited by this discovery because it provides additional insight into how stem cells can restore function in the brain after injury," said Dr Walter Low, head of the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Minnesota.
Medical research on strokes receives two per cent of the funding cancer does in the UK and five per cent of heart disease research funding.
One person suffers a stroke in the UK every three minutes.