Five patients received the treatment in a pilot study conducted by doctors at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and scientists at Imperial College London.
The therapy was found to be safe, and all the patients showed improvements in clinical measures of disability.
The findings are published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine. It is the first UK human trial of a stem cell treatment for acute stroke to be published.
The therapy uses a type of cell called CD34+ cells, a set of stem cells in the bone marrow that give rise to blood cells and blood vessel lining cells. Previous research has shown that treatment using these cells can significantly improve recovery from stroke in animals. Rather than developing into brain cells themselves, the cells are thought to release chemicals that trigger the growth of new brain tissue and new blood vessels in the area damaged by stroke.
Stem cell therapy is seen as an exciting new potential avenue of treatment for stroke, but its exact role is yet to be clearly defined.
“This is the first trial to isolate stem cells from human bone marrow and inject them directly into the damaged brain area using keyhole techniques. Our group are currently looking at new brain scanning techniques to monitor the effects of cells once they have been injected,” said Dr. Paul Bentley, also a lead author of the study, from the Department of Medicine at Imperial College London.
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