By Dulce Zamora
April 5 (CBS HealthWatch)--If a novel cell therapy proves effective, a simple injection in the arm could speed the recovery of stroke patients. A new study found bone marrow cells could be used to help heal damaged areas of the brain.
Researchers took mature bone marrow cells out of rats, grew the cells in greater concentrations in a lab, and then infused them back into the animals (which by that time had been given strokes). Some of the rats were not given the bone marrow treatment, but all of the rats were then given neurological, motor skill and sensory function tests.
The study found the treated animals scored better on the tests, and returned to normal or near normal health within two weeks of the stroke. Investigators also discovered that the rats treated at day one and day seven recovered at the same rate.
The findings show that transplanting bone marrow cells is an effective way of treating stroke, says study author Michael Chopp, PhD, professor and vice chairman of neurology at the Henry Ford Health Sciences Center in Detroit, Michigan. He says the method "enhances functional recovery" in a non-invasive manner, and allows doctors to delay treatment up to a week of the onset of stroke.
How does it work? Chopp says the re-injected bone marrow cells head straight for the injured tissue in the brain. "[The bone marrow cells] enter the injured tissue and behave like little factories, producing an array of very important proteins that promote repair and compensation of the brain," he says, noting that the bone marrow cells may activate cells in the brain that have been dormant.
Edgar J. Kenton, MD, spokesperson for the American Stroke Association, calls the study "cutting edge research." But he cautions against getting too excited, because the work is still experimental and has yet to be tried in humans.
The findings, though, are promising, says Kenton. "It teaches us that we can use cells from other sources to help repair tissues such as the brain, which is a relatively remote area."
Kenton says that if the technology is proven to be effective for stroke, the same method could potentially be used for other diseases that concern damage in the brain, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease.
A complete report
of the study appears in the April issue of Stroke.
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