By Asha Prasad

In a pilot study conducted at Imperial College London, five patients underwent an experimental treatment for stroke that utilized the participants’ own stem cells. To create the therapy, researchers extracted CD34+ cells, the set of stem cells in bone marrow that create blood cells and blood vessel lining cells, and injected them into an artery that feeds into the brain. Instead of morphing into brain cells themselves, CD34+ cells are believed to trigger the growth of new brain tissue and new blood vessels.

All five patients were treated within seven days of suffering a severe stroke. This is in contrast to previous studies, which treated patients six months or more following a stroke. So far, the therapy has proven to be safe and all patients have displayed clinical improvement over the six-month follow-up period. The Imperial doctors believe early intervention improves patients’ chances of recovery.

Dr. Soma Banerjee, a consultant in Stroke Medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said, “This study showed that the treatment appears to be safe and that it’s feasible to treat patients early when they might be more likely to benefit. The improvements we saw in these patients are very encouraging, but it’s too early to draw definitive tests to work out the best dose and timescale for treatment before starting larger trials.”

The study is published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine.

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