Study shows reduction in brain injury after stroke patients were treated with their own stem cells

Illustration showing the mechanism of an ischemic stroke. In an ischemic stroke, blood supply to part of the brain is decreased, leading to dysfunction of that area of the brain. Here, a blood clot is the reason for restricted blood flow.

Stroke is the third leading cause of death and serious long-term disability and affects nearly 800,000 Americans a year, with someone in the U.S. suffering a stroke every 40 seconds. Roughly 87% of all strokes are ischemic strokes, meaning that a clot blocks blood flow to the brain. Unfortunately 90% of those who suffer an ischemic stroke also end up suffering from weakness or paralysis to one side of the body.

A study conducted by Muhammad Haque, Ph.D. and Sean Savitz, M.D. at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) found that treating patients with stem cells from their own bone marrow could lead to a reduction in brain injury after a stroke caused by a blood clot.

For this study, there were 37 patients from ages 18 to 80. While all received the standard stroke treatment and rehabilitation follow-up, 17 patients whose strokes were the most severe received a bone marrow stem cell therapy. To measure any improvement, the UTHealth team used 3D brain imaging of the patients obtained from MRI scans. They used these images to compare changes in white matter of those treated with their own bone marrow stem cells to those who were not treated.

White matter is a specific type of tissue in the brain that is critical for motor function because it is responsible for carrying movement-related information to the spinal cord.

Three months after the stroke, the MRI scans of each patient showed the expected decrease after a stroke. However, scans taken 12 months after the stroke occurred showed an improvement on average in the 17 patients who received bone marrow cell therapy.

In a press release from UTHealth, Dr. Haque elaborates on what these results could mean for developing treamtents for stroke patients.

“We envision that future clinical trials might be directed toward identifying white matter protection or repair as an important mechanistic target of efficacy studies and potency assays for bone marrow cell therapies.”

The full results to this study were published in STEM CELLS Translational Medicine.

3 thoughts on “Study shows reduction in brain injury after stroke patients were treated with their own stem cells

  1. Clinical trial was carried out in patients with ischemic strokes by transplanting autologous bone marrow cells. Results showed that there was minimal white matter changes in brain and longitudinal changes suggesting a return at least partially of axonal integrity in the RP and CR. However, cell therapy did not replace damage brain tissue. Stem cells require specific growth factors for growth and differentiation. During the differentiation of immature cells, they require multiple stages of maturation to produce into mature cells. In each stages of maturation, progenitors response to different specific growth factors for growth and differentiation. Therefore, stem cells require multiple and specific growth factors for repairing of tissue injury.

    Although, humans are potentially to cure their injuries by natural wound healing. The injury site always produces many kinds of growth factors. These endogenous growth factors are signaling molecules that regulate cellular responses for wound healing process. These components are always unregulated in response to tissue damage and are secreted by platelet, leukocytes, fibriblasts and epithelial cells. This is in contrast to the brain cells, human brain stops developing around the age of 25. As human age progress, brain goes through changes to slow down the ability of thinking. It lost its volume and the cortex become thinner. The myelin sheath surrounding the fibers of neurons begins degrade and brain receptors don’t fire as quickly. According to international team of neuroscientists that, human brain stops producing new neurons at age of 13. Thus, most of stroke patients with ischemic stroke are age beyond 60 and lack of specific growth factors produce in brain cells may hinder the repairing of injury brain tissue . Therefore, addition of exogenous growth factors is an essential therapy to enhance the bone marrow stem cells to replace the damage tissue in brain.

  2. Are there clinical trials (planned or underway) on using bone marrow stem cells to repair white matter damage in children with PVL (periventricular leukomalacia)?

    • Hi Don, I don’t know of any but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any. There is a lot of research taking place outside California that we really only become aware of when it’s approved for a clinical trial.

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