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Stem Cell Therapy Shows Promise for Stroke, Studies Say
Date:2/1/2012

By Maureen Salamon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Treating stroke patients with stem cells taken from their own bone marrow appears to safely help them regain some of their lost abilities, two small new studies suggest.

Indian researchers observed mixed results in the extent of stroke patients' improvements, with one study showing marked gains in daily activities, such as feeding, dressing and movement, and the other study noting these improvements to be statistically insignificant. But patients seemed to safely tolerate the treatments in both experiments with no ill effects, study authors said.

"The results are encouraging to know but we need a larger, randomized study for more definitive conclusions," said Dr. Rohit Bhatia, a professor of neurology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, and author of one of the studies. "Many questions -- like timing of transplantation, type of cells, mode of transplantation, dosage [and] long-term safety -- need answers before it can be taken from bench to bedside."

The studies are scheduled to be presented Wednesday and Thursday at the American Stroke Association's annual meeting in New Orleans.

Stem cells -- unspecialized cells from bone marrow, umbilical cord blood or human embryos that can change into cells with specific functions -- have been explored as potential therapies for a host of diseases and conditions, including cancer and strokes.

In one of the current studies, 120 moderately affected stroke patients ranging from 18 to 75 years old were split into two groups, with half infused intravenously with stem cells harvested from their hip bones and half serving as controls. About 73 percent of the stem cell group achieved "assisted independence" after six months, compared with 61 percent of the control group, but the difference wasn't considered statistically significant.

In the other study, presen
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