A new first-of-its kind pilot study has revealed that stem cell treatment can significantly improve recovery from stroke in humans. 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. 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.
The patients were treated within seven days of a severe stroke, in contrast to several other stem cell trials, most of which have treated patients after six months or later. The Imperial researchers believe early treatment might improve the chances of a better recovery. Dr Soma Banerjee, Consultant in Stroke Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said that the treatment appeared to be safe and that it's feasible to treat patients early when they might be more likely to benefit.
However, it's too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the therapy and more tests to work out the best dose and timescale for treatment before starting larger trials, she further added. The study is published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.