Clinical trial uses stem cells to help patients recover from stroke

Stem cell stroke trial

Neurosurgeons at the University of Chicago Medicine recently concluded a clinical trial that used stem cells to help patients recover from a stroke. The experimental treatment involved injecting stem cells into the brain near the site of the stroke. The procedure could help stroke patients regain the use of limbs and improve general motor function.

"The hope is that within 12 months, patients who received the treatment will see significant increase in motor scores and general improvement in their quality of life," said Peter Warnke, MD, Director of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery, who is leading the trial at UChicago Medicine.

During a stroke, blood flow stops to a portion of the brain, either because of a blood clot or a ruptured blood vessel. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die, causing lasting damage and loss of neurological functions.

The clinical trial procedure was designed to reverse this damage by using stem cells to regenerate nerve fibers that were damaged during the stroke. Warnke and his team used CT imaging during surgery to guide them precisely to the damaged area of the brain, where they injected the stem cells.

UChicago Medicine treated the first patients in the Chicago area. Early phase I/2a results at Stanford were encouraging and showed significant improvements in motor function. While the trial is now close and they are not recruiting more patients, Warnke said he believes one day the procedure has the potential to be a breakthrough treatment.

"It's the most innovative trial available for stroke patients today, and one of the best studies I've ever seen," he said. "If we continue to see positive results and the FDA approves this treatment, it can have a tremendous positive effect on the lives of patients recovering from stroke."