Promise and caution shown in ongoing research into stem cell treatment of strokes

Public release date: 9-Jul-2013 [ | E-mail | Share ]

Contact: Dwight Angell dwight.angell@hfhs.org 313-850-3471 Henry Ford Health System

DETROIT While stem-cell therapy offers great promise for the treatment of stroke, much research remains to be done to show its long-term effectiveness and to understand the potential for dangerous side effects.

These are the conclusions drawn by Henry Ford Hospital neurologists Jing Zhang, M.D., Ph.D., and Michael Chopp, Ph.D., scientific director of the Henry Ford Hospital Neuroscience Institute, in a review of their own and other current research into the next-generation treatment of one of the leading causes of death and disability around the world. The article has been accepted for publication by Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy.

Most strokes are ischemic, meaning they occur when an artery to the brain is blocked, stopping the flow of vital, oxygen-rich blood. The blockage can be caused by a blood clot, air bubble or other mass in the blood stream.

"This touches off many complicated reactions," Dr. Zhang explains. "Nerve circuits are disrupted. Chemical processes within cells are disturbed. The blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from a wide range of harmful invasions, including infection, is damaged.

"As a result, many stroke survivors are left with permanent neurological and physical disability. And this leads to a huge social and economic burden."

Current stroke treatment focuses on restoring blood flow to the brain to stop further cell and tissue damage. However, Drs. Zhang and Chopp write, only one drug has FDA approval for the clinical treatment of stroke.

Called tPA, it's an enzyme that works on destroying or dissolving the blockage that caused the stroke. Although it can be effective, it also has downsides, they note.

The time in which tPA can be helpful is short at most only four and a half hours after the stroke. This is probably the reason less than 10 percent of stroke patients are treated with tPA.

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Promise and caution shown in ongoing research into stem cell treatment of strokes

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