A recent study by a group from NHS Imperial College Healthcare in London has found a possible treatment for acute ischemic stroke using a patient’s own stem cells.
The use of stem cells, specifically CD34+ hematopoietic cells, has been shown to promote neurogenisis and angiogenesis, thereby improving functional recovery after stroke in non human models but this represents the first trial of its kind in humans.
The CD34+ cells were harvested from the bone marrow of five acute severe stroke patients. The cells were then infused into the carotid artery of these patients within seven days of stroke onset. The initial reasoning for the study was to test tolerance and safety of the procedure however, a significant side benefit was noted. All patients showed improvements on clinical tests over the six month follow up period, with three of five being independent in ADLs.
Interestingly, authors do not seem to suggest that the stem cells go on to become neurons themselves, but rather that they release chemicals that trigger neurogenesis and the growth and repair of blood vessels around the site of stroke.
Of course this is a completely new stem cell therapy with a small n and the authors caution that more research must be done to establish the efficacy of CD34+ in functional recovery post stroke. However, if this proves effective in future studies it could represent a new treatment option open to more patients and tolerated more successfully than current thrombolytic drugs or other interventions.