Stem cell treatment using patients' bone marrow has proven to be a potentially viable avenue for future research for those who have experienced a stroke.
A team from Imperial College London undertook the first trial of its kind with humans and the five patients studied all showed improvements.
Researchers used the set of stem cells in the bone marrow - called CD34+ - that give rise to blood cells and blood vessel lining cells.
While these do not turn into new cells, they emit chemicals that encourage new brain tissue and blood vessels to form in the area that has been adversely affected by the stroke.
Using this type of cell proved to be successful when tests were done on animals previously.
Treating patients as soon as possible after a stroke is crucial to recovery and the five individuals in this study were seen within seven days. While researchers used this trial to primarily make sure this method of treatment was safe, all the patients showed improvements over a follow-up period of six months.
What was especially encouraging was that just four per cent of those who have the most severe type of stroke are expected to be alive and independent six months later. In this trial, four of the five patients experienced this type of stroke and were all alive after half a year, while three were independent.
Lead author and consultant in stroke medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust Dr Soma Banerjee said: “This study showed that the treatment appears to be safe and that it’s feasible to treat patients early when they might be more likely to benefit. The improvements we saw in these patients are very encouraging, but it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the therapy."
Dr Banerjee also stressed the importance of undertaking more tests in an attempt to find out what the correct dosage is and when treatment should be administered, before larger trials are initiated.
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