Repairing brain damage from stroke may be possible with brain cell transplants

A new technique of transplanting laboratory-grown neuronal cells into the brains of stroke patients is safe and well-tolerated by patients, according to a study in the August 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"More research needs to be done, but these results are exciting," said Douglas Kondziolka, MD, of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in Pennsylvania. "Right now there is no direct treatment for reversing the neurologic damage of a stroke months after it occurs. The only treatment for these patients is rehabilitation through physical or occupational therapy."

In the study, transplants were given to 12 people whose stroke occurred six months to six years previously and who had major movement disabilities, which could be as severe as paralysis in an arm or leg. Six months after transplantation, none of the patients experienced complications or other problems related to the transplant.

"This study was designed to evaluate if it's feasible to put these cells into the brain and whether the process is safe," Kondziolka said. "With these positive results, now we can move on to a larger study with more patients to find out whether these transplants really help patients recover their lost abilities."

The patients received either two million or six million cells transplanted into three sites within and around the stroke-damaged areas of the brain. The cells, called LBS-Neurons, originate from human tumor tissue composed of embryonic-like cells. In the laboratory, scientists have developed a process that uses several chemicals to transform these rapidly dividing cells into fully differentiated, non-dividing neurons.

Six of the 12 patients improved substantially on tests of disability, mainly in tests of motor skills such as walking and arm and leg movement. Positron emission tomography (PET) scans showed a 15-percent improvement in metabolism in the area of the transpl

Contact: Cheryl Grogan
American Academy of Neurology

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