Brain damage that results from stroke is an enormous challenge to address for people around the world. That’s why research into stem cell therapies for stroke victims is so vital to reduce the devastating effects of stroke on its victims.
Stem Cell Study
A new study is set to go ahead in the United Kingdom (UK) to find out if stem cells are able to repair brain damage suffered by stroke victims (see bottom of page for update). The company is aiming to begin clinical trials in the first half of this year on twelve patients. While there has been some preliminary success on stem cell treatments for similar brain damage, this new study will address a condition that has widespread effects.
Designing the Study
In this British study, stroke victims will have neural stem cells injected into their skull. While it sounds quite graphic, the injections will involve a very fine syringe and will target the parts of their brains that have been more severely affected by the stroke.
Researchers hope that these neural stem cells will then develop into healthy brain tissue as well as neurons and other related, supportive structures in the brain. If the study proves successful, it will mean that the stroke victim’s brain will have newly restored connections – a better, healthier brain network, so to speak.
Taking Animal Studies to Humans
So far, we have also seen positive results from studies in mice, where they were able to regain brain functioning following injury to the brain. These kinds of animal experiments have prompted the need for human studies and it is hoped that this new clinical trial will provide similar – or greater – success.
One interesting aspect of this kind of study is that once the stem cells are injected, we don’t know exactly how they work and develop in the brain. We can measure the outcomes of the procedure but we can’t actually track everything that happens once the neural cells are injected. So, we don’t know where they travel exactly or how they change and develop.
Scans taken regularly can show brain functioning and activities after the treatment but the precise process by which the brain ‘heals’ is something that for now, will remain a mystery. At best, we can hope for a positive result by whatever physical mechanism occurs and perhaps in the future, we will also be able to observe the pathway itself by which stem cells help stroke victims.
Awaiting Study Results
Many of us will be anxiously awaiting the results of the study, which provides hope for the many people who have suffered from brain damage due to a stroke. For now, however, the best thing the rest of us can do is to focus on preventative strategies to reduce the likelihood of suffering from a stroke.
With stroke being as prevalent as it is, it’s likely most of us will either suffer from a stroke at some point in our lifetime or we will know someone who does suffer from one and possibly has brain damage to some degree as a result. Hopefully, the new British study will offer hope for everyone who is affected by stroke or will be one day.
Update: A pilot study by Imperial College London infused particular types of stem cells that stimulate growth, known as CD34+ into damaged sections of the brain. All the five patients showed improvements in clinical measures of disability. While these trials are still in their very early stages it shows promise for future clinical trials.