CAN STEM CELLS CURE STROKE PATIENTS?
For most of us, stem cells are straight out of science fiction. The idea of a clump of cells being stored in the right environment so that they could be made to grow into organs of our choice, so that we can use them for replacements without fear of rejection, is unimaginable. Most people involved in the field say that stem-cell-based organ replacements will be common in the next couple of decades.
But a pilot study conducted by Imperial College, London, suggests that infusing stem cells into the brain may help boost recovery after a stroke.
A particular type of stem cells – called CD34+ by scientists – were infused directly into the brains of patients suffering from a stroke. These stem cells have the ability to stimulate the growth of new blood cells. Three out of the four stroke patients were found to be looking after themselves independently at the end of the six-month period in which this experiment was conducted.
Other stem cell treatment methods have been known to have similar therapeutic effects, and the accepted wisdom in the field is that stem cells have naturally protective abilities. If this study is any indication, not only can we use stem cells in organ transplants in the future, but we can also use them to cure and manage stroke patients better.
However, scientists involved in the research have said that this is was just a pilot, and that larger studies need to be conducted before we can be sure of whether or not stem cells can cure strokes.