Following a couple of bad weeks for the stem cell field – which started with a retraction of the 2008 Nature paper Generation of pluripotent stem cells from adult human testis, and culminated with the sad news of the suicide of Japanese scientist Yoshiki Sasai, one of the co-authors of the controversial – and now retracted – Nature paper on STAP cells published earlier this year – comes the refreshing news of a successful human trial of a new therapy involving stem cells for the treatment of stroke.
The results of a phase I trial, conducted at London’s Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, involving five patients with acute ischemic stroke, showed promising preliminary results in terms of both safety and efficacy. Immunoselected, bone marrow-derived CD34+ stem cells were isolated and used to treat five patients – selected from a potential pool of 82 candidates – by infusing the cells intra-arterially using the middle cerebral artery into the target infract area that delivers them to the brain.
The patients, all between 30 and 80 years old, were treated within one week of suffering a severe stroke. The stroke sufferers all recorded improvements over a six-month follow-up period, and three of the five patients were independent after six months despite suffering from an extremely severe type of stroke, which has a typical survival rate of <5%. Moreover, no serious side effects were recorded in any of the patients.
The study, published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine, is the first of its kind in humans. As far as the timeline goes, the study started in 2007, was completed in 2012 and results were published last week.
While preliminary, the results are very promising considering this up until this point these stem cells had only been shown to be effective for the same treatment in animal models. The authors claim further follow up studies are necessary, but that a potential drug with the same functionality as the cells is in the pipeline.