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Analysis: Bone marrow stem cells show promise in stroke treatment

Friday April 11, 2014
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Stem cells culled from bone marrow may prove beneficial in stroke recovery by triggering repair mechanisms and limiting inflammation, researchers from the University of California-Irvine have found.

For the project, a team led by neurologist Steven Cramer, MD, and biomedical engineer Weian Zhao, PhD, both from UC Irvine’s Sue and Bill Gross Stem Cell Research Center, identified 46 published studies that examined the use of mesenchymal stromal cells — a type of multipotent adult stem cells mostly processed from bone marrow — in animal models of stroke.

They found MSCs to be significantly better than control therapy in 44 of the studies. The findings were published in the April 8 issue of the journal Neurology.

They found the effects of these cells on functional recovery were significant regardless of the dosage and timing of MSCs being administered relative to stroke onset or whether they were introduced directly to the brain or injected via a blood vessel.

“Stroke remains a major cause of disability, and we are encouraged that the preclinical evidence shows [MSCs’] efficacy with ischemic stroke,” Cramer said in a news release. He is the clinical director of the Gross center, a professor of neurology and stroke expert.

“MSCs are of particular interest because they come from bone marrow, which is readily available, and are relatively easy to culture,” he added. “In addition, they already have demonstrated value when used to treat other human diseases.”

Cramer said MSCs do not differentiate into neural cells. Normally, they transform into a variety of cell types, such as bone, cartilage and fat cells.

“But they do their magic as an inducible pharmacy on wheels and as good immune system modulators, not as cells that directly replace lost brain parts,” he said.

In an earlier report focused on MSC mechanisms of action, Cramer and Zhao reviewed the means by which MSCs promote brain repair after stroke. The cells are attracted to injury sites and, in response to signals released by these damaged areas, begin releasing a wide range of molecules. In this way, MSCs orchestrate activities such as blood vessel creation to enhance circulation, protection of cells starting to die and growth of brain cells. At the same time, when MSCs are able to reach the bloodstream, they settle in parts of the body that control the immune system and foster an environment more conducive to brain repair.

“We conclude that MSCs have consistently improved multiple outcome measures, with very large effect sizes, in a high number of animal studies and, therefore, that these findings should be the foundation of further studies on the use of MSCs in the treatment of ischemic stroke in humans,” Cramer said in the release.

The study was supported by UC Irvine’s Institute for Clinical & Translational Science through the National Center for Research Resources and National Institutes of Health.

Study abstract: www.neurology.org/content/82/14/1277.abstract

To see what else is trending in Stroke, visit www.Nurse.com/Stroke.


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