A pilot study extracted stem cells from bone marrow to treat stroke patients.

Photo Credit: Stem Cells Translational Medicine

Photo Credit: Stem Cells Translational Medicine

A recent pilot study showed positive results from a stroke therapy using bone marrow stem cells. The study involved five patients and was conducted by doctors at the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London. 

The study, which was published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, marks the first of its kind in the U.K. conducted on humans. The patients were being treated for acute stroke and the stem cell therapy was found to be safe and participants showed improvements in clinical measures of disability. 

In the therapy, doctors used a cell type called CD34+, which are found in the bone marrow and help produce blood cells and blood vessel lining cells. The idea is that the cells will release chemicals that trigger the growth of new brain tissue and blood vessels. 

Each patient involved in the study was treated within seven days or suffering from a severe stroke. A bone marrow sample was taken from each and the CD34+ cells were isolated and infused into an artery that directly supplies the brain. All of the patients showed improvements in clinical tests over a six-month period.

Four of the five participants had a very severe stroke, with an only four percent survival rate after six months. After the trails, all the patients were alive and three were independent after the six-month-period.

"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," said Dr. Soma Banerjee, lead author of the study. "The improvements we saw in these patients are very encouraging, but it's too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the therapy. We need to do more tests to work out the best dose and timescale for treatment before starting larger trials."

Dr. Paul Bentley, the study's other lead author added: "This is the first trial to isolate stem cells from human bone marrow and inject them directly into the damaged brain area using keyhole techniques. Our group are currently looking at new brain scanning techniques to monitor the effects of cells once they have been injected."