Researchers at the University of South Florida found that human umbilical cord blood cells administered to rats two days following a stroke greatly curbed the brain's inflammatory response, reducing the size of the stroke and resulting in greatly improved recovery. The rats' inflammatory response to injury from stroke peaked 48 hours after the brain attack, which was when intravenous delivery of the cells appeared most beneficial.
"We were very surprised," said principal investigator Alison Willing, PhD, a neuroscientist at the USF Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair. "In some animals, the stroke initially damaged half the brain, but after treatment with the cord blood cells they were functioning normally.
"These findings show we are able to rescue neurons at a time when most research suggests they are already dead."
Dr. Willing presented the preliminary findings Nov. 12 at the Society for Neuroscience annual meeting in Washington, DC.
The only drug currently approved for ischemic stroke treatment is tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), which breaks up blood clots ?the cause of most strokes. However, tPA must be given within three hours following a stroke to be effective and few patients arrive at the hospital quickly enough to receive it. Even when a patient meets the recommended three-hour treatment criteria, smaller hospitals often lack ready access to a CT scan, a test needed to rule out a hemorrhagic stroke caused by a burst blood vessel. The drug can worsen this less common type of stroke.
"New and more flexible treatments are needed to help more patients," Dr. Willing said. "Cord blood treatment in rats is successful in alleviating, even eliminating, the disabling effects of both ischemic and hemorrhagic
Source:University of South Florida Health