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Trial Shows Stem Cell Treatment Feasibility for Stroke

CT scan of stroke victim's brain (National Library of Medicine)

CT scan of stroke victim’s brain (National Library of Medicine)

8 August 2014. An early-stage clinical trial shows treating stroke patients with their own bone-marrow stem cells is safe and feasible, and provides evidence of improving cognitive and motor functions. The study conducted by Imperial College London and affiliated hospitals in the U.K. appears today in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine (registration required).

The study was led by Nagy Habib, a professor in Imperial’s medical school and surgeon at Hammersmith Hospital Campus. Habib is also founder of OmniCyte Ltd, one of the study’s funders and a spin-off company from Imperial College commercializing research by Habib on stem cells. Myrtle Gordon, an Imperial medical faculty colleague of Habib’s, is a co-author of the paper and a principal with OmniCyte.

The clinical trial tested a therapy from a certain type of stem cell, known as CD34+ stem/progenitor cells, as a treatment for ischemic stroke, where a blood vessel to the brain becomes obstructed. CD34+ cells are derived from bone marrow and have been shown in earlier studies with animals to promote blood vessel formation. Ischemic stroke accounts for about 7 of every 8 stroke cases.

In this study, Habib and colleagues tested the ability of CD34+ stem cells to stimulate growth of healthy blood vessel and brain tissue in the area of the brain affected by stroke. The paper reports on 5 patients who received transplants of their own CD34+ cells within 7 days of a severe stroke. The CD34+ cells were delivered with a catheter into the middle cerebral artery.

The main purpose of the trial was to test the treatment’s safety, and the authors say the procedure was well tolerated by all patients, with no adverse affects. The study also looked for evidence that the treatments had some clinical benefit for the patients, measured by standard observational scales of disability and cognitive and motor functions. The authors report the patients showed improvement on the observational scales, as well as lower brain lesion volumes in the 6 months following the treatments.

The results from a small sample are still not considered conclusive, but the authors say they provide enough evidence to keep working on therapies with this technology. “Scientific evidence from our lab further supports the clinical findings,” says Habib in an Imperial College statement, “and our aim is to develop a drug, based on the factors secreted by stem cells, that could be stored in the hospital pharmacy so that it is administered to the patient immediately following the diagnosis of stroke in the emergency room.”

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