Stroke Patients Improve with Stem Cells

Long-term stroke patients involved in a small-scale clinical trial of a neural stem-cell therapy show signs of recovery.

By | May 28, 2013

A colony of human embryonic stem cells (middle)WIKIMEDIA, RYDDRAGYNIt was thought that stroke victims couldn’t make any sort of recovery more than 6 months after the stroke. But now, five out of nine long-term stroke patients who took part in a Phase 1 clinical trial of a new therapy in which neural stem cells are injected into the damaged parts of the brain have experienced mild to moderate improvements, reported BBC News.

For example, some participants have recovered the ability to move their fingers and grip objects after several years of complete paralysis, while others are now able to walk around their houses without assistance for the first time in years.

“We are seeing things that are interesting and somewhat surprising,” Hugh Muir, a neuroscientist at the University of Glasgow who is leading the work, told the BBC. “My expectation had been that we would see very little change and if we did see change it would be a relatively short-lived temporary change,” added Muir. “[But] we have seen changes that have been maintained over time.”

The treatment was developed by the company ReNeuron, which first created the stem cells 10 years ago from a sample of nerve tissue taken from a fetus. The promising preliminary results of the trial, taking place at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow, U.K., will be presented today (May 28) at the European Stroke Conference in London, and the researchers are planning a Phase 2 study, which they hope will give a better idea of whether treatment is the cause of the observed improvements, or if there is some other mechanism at play.

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