It seems that infusing stem cells into the brain could help to boost recovery after a stroke, a pilot study by Imperial College London has revealed. The scientists at Imperial believe the cells encourage new blood vessels to grow in damaged areas of the brain.
Scientists monitored five patients (all of whom had suffered severe strokes) for a period for six months, charting their ability to carry out everyday activities independently both before and after the treatment. Stem cells (known as CD34+) were harvested from the patients’ own bone marrow. These cells (which have the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels) were then directly infused into the damaged sections of the brain via a major artery.
Four of the five had suffered particularly severe strokes – and were affected by the loss of speech and marked paralysis down one side of the body. The type of stroke usually associated with a high fatality and disability rate.
Most patients involved in the trial were able to walk and look after themselves independently by the end. Larger studies are now needed to evaluate whether this could be used more widely before a treatment can be based on these findings.