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

ted by Bhatia, 40 patients whose stroke occurred between three and 12 months prior were also split into two groups, with half receiving stem cells, which were dissolved in saline and infused over several hours. When compared to controls, stroke patients receiving stem cell therapy showed statistically significant improvements in feeding, dressing and mobility, according to the study. On functional MRI scans, the stem cell recipients also demonstrated an increase in brain activity in regions that control movement planning and motor function.

Neither study yielded adverse effects on patients, which could include tumor development.

But Dr. Matthew Fink, chief of the division of stroke and critical care neurology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, said that the therapy's safety is the only thing the two studies seemed to demonstrate.

"The thing to keep in mind is that these are really phase one trials," said Fink, also a professor of neurology at Weill Cornell Medical College. "I'm concerned that people get the idea that now stem cell treatment is available for stroke, and that's not the case."

Fink noted that the cells taken from study participants' hip bones can only be characterized as "bone marrow aspirates" since the authors didn't prove that actual stem cells were extracted.

"They haven't really analyzed if they're stem cells and what they turn into when they go into circulation," he added. "The best way to look at this is, it's very preliminary . . . when patients come to me to talk about it, I'm going to tell them it's years away before we know if this is going to work."

Studies presented at scientific conferences should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed medical journal.

More information

The U.S. National Institutes of Health has more information on stem cells.


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