Landmark stem cell trial for stroke

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Dr. Sean I. Savitz directs a team of researchers. They reported that bone marrow cells applied to treat ischemic stroke in an expanded Phase I trial were found to be safe and feasible, plus these cells showed enhanced recovery compared to a matched historical control group. They published these findings in the journal Stem Cells.

In addition, researchers applied serial diffusion tensor imaging. They also observed repair of motor nerve tracts from the brain into the spinal cord. They recorded this data for the first time in study participants, according to the team at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“In the typical stroke injury, you can see the degeneration of the nerve tracts where it thins out,” said Savitz, director of the Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease and professor of neurology with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “What surprised us was that after three to six months, we could see the tracts thicken up again in some patients. We do not typically see that same level of response in patients with such severe strokes but further research will be needed to determine if the return of the nerve tracts is because of the cell treatment or part of natural recovery.”

These researchers concluded that patients in the cell-treated group had a 1-point improvement in the Day 90 modified Rankin score. This Rankin score is a 6-point scale recognized as the standard analysis for indicating stroke recovery and disability. They also compared study patients to a matched control group to understand the results and predict outcomes.