By Fiona Macrae
PUBLISHED: 19:48 EST, 14 June 2012 | UPDATED: 19:48 EST, 14 June 2012
The pioneering treatment could revolutionise stroke rehabilitation (picture posed by model)
The first stroke patients to have a pioneering and controversial stem cell treatment have shown tantalising signs of improvement.
The five men have seen improvements in their ability to move, and in one case, speak, after millions of stem cells from an aborted 12-week-old baby were injected into their brains up to 18 months ago.
However, the treatment has provoked criticism from campaigners who say that the use of aborted tissue cannot be justified, whatever the benefits to the patient.
The trial, spearheaded by Surrey-based biotech firm ReNeuron and carried out at Glasgows Southern General Hospital, was the first in the world to give brain cells to stroke patients.
The treatment capitalises on the power of stem cells, dubbed master cells, which have the ability to multiply repeatedly and transform into other cell types, acting as a repair kit for the body.
Experts cautioned that the work is at a very early stage, but added that even the smallest of improvements can make a huge difference to someone who has been robbed of the ability to dress or feed themselves.