Towards Stem Cell-Based Treatment for Stroke

News Editor: Maria Kostyanaya

Brain infarction, or stroke, is caused by a blood clot blocking  vessels in the brain causing interruption of blood flow and shortage of oxygen supply to surrounding tissue. According to the World Health Organization, 15 million people experience stroke worldwide each year. Of these, 5 million die and another 5 million are permanently disabled (http://www.strokecenter.org/patients/about-stroke/stroke-statistics/).

A research group at Lund University in Sweden conducted an important study, published in the scientific journal Brain, that may lead to new developments in the area of stroke treatment using stem cells. In this study on stroke-injured cerebral cortex of rats the so-called induced pluripotent stem cells were developed to mature nerve cells at two months post transplantation. These nerve cells have established connections with other important structures in the brain as the transplantation enhanced the animals’ mobility.

Brain head ache, migraine, Alzheimer's or dementiaAlthough the research was implemented on animals, the researchers are hopeful there will be similar benefits for humans. “The results are promising and represent a very early but important step towards a stem cell-based treatment for stroke in patients. However, it is important to underscore that further experimental studies are necessary to translate these findings into the clinic in a responsible way”, states Olle Lindvall, one of the study researchers, senior consultant and professor of neurology.

Around 30,000 people in Sweden suffer from stroke every year and many of these patients also exhibit long-lasting physical and mental impairments and never fully recover. Nerve cells in the brain die after a stroke and the hope of future treatments is that new healthy cells would replace these destroyed cells. Thus, at Lund Stem Cell Center, the research group supervised by Zaal Kokaia’s and Olle Lindvall’s are working on a stem cell-based method to treat stroke affected patients.

It is often the case that the cerebral cortex is damaged following a stroke,  frequently leading to symptoms such as paresis and speech disruptions. The new method, suggested by the Lund researchers, harnesses the possibility of generating nerve cells for transplantation from the patient’s own skin cells. These scientists have reprogrammed skin cells from an adult human to induced pluripotent stem cells and induced these cells to become mature nerve cells with cerebral cortical characteristics. Zaal Kokaia, professor of experimental medical research, claims: “By using the method of induced pluripotent stem cells we have been able to generate cells which express those markers which are typical for nerve cells in the cerebral cortex and we have also shown that the new nerve cells are functional”.

Zaal Kokaia explains the need for further research: “We must also determine which effects the transplanted nerve cells have on other brain functions. We need to know more about how well the new nerve cells are integrated into the cerebral cortex and communicate with other nerve cells”. In addition, the magnitude of functional restoration is yet to be improved in the following studies. This kind of research on improving the organic basis of mental dysfunction serves the interests of  psychotherapy as it begins to detail the underlying processes pertaining to wellbeing and recovery.

The source: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131025091709.htm

Journal Reference:

 Författare: Daniel Tornero, Somsak Wattananit, Marita Grønning Madsen, Philipp Koch, James Wood, Jemal Tatarishvili, Yutaka Mine, Ruimin Ge, Emanuela Monni, KarthikeyanDevaraju, Robert F. Hevner, Oliver Brüstle, Olle Lindvall and Zaal Kokaia. Human induced pluripotent stem cell-derived cortical neurons integrate in stroke-injured cortex and improve functional recovery. Brain, October 2013


 

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