Regenerative medicine: with stem cells for stroke: British researchers have tested stem cells for the treatment of a stroke patient for the first time. With the help of nerve stem cells injected directly into the brain, the researchers hope to be able to treat the partial paralysis caused by a stroke.
For years, doctors have been researching how to repair brain damage caused by a stroke. Since the brain basically has the ability to regenerate, the researchers also want to use this ability to treat brain damage. British physicians have now used nerve stem cells in a stroke patient for the first time and hope to make greater progress in regenerative medicine.
Nerve stem cells are injected directly into the brain The research team led by Keith Muir from the University of Glasgow developed a procedure in which patients who have had an ischemic stroke are injected with a specially designed, 22 cm long needle near the damaged areas of the brain. However, no stem cell injection was carried out directly in the damaged areas. The procedure has now been tested for the first time on a volunteer who had had a stroke 16 months ago and has suffered from partial paralysis since then. The man has since been released from the hospital after the weekend treatment. The doctors hope that stem cell therapy will reduce the subject's mental and physical limitations.
Procedure to be tested on 12 stroke patients With the first-time application of the new procedure, the British scientists have, according to their own statements, laid the cornerstone of a whole series of experiments that are intended to assess the success of the method. The doctors will treat up to twelve other people with the new therapy and then monitor all subjects over a period of two years. If the first treatments are successful, larger series of tests should follow. The success of the method has so far not been clarified. According to the researchers, rapid deployment in large patient groups cannot be assumed.
Method only applicable to ischemic stroke According to the British researchers, the new method can only be used in patients with ischemic stroke, which is caused by a lack of blood supply in certain areas of the brain. The reduced blood flow to individual brain areas, which is often caused by clogged blood vessels, leads to a lack of vital substances (e.g. oxygen) in the cells and the longer the undersupply lasts, the more nerve cells die in the course of the stroke. The possible consequences are, for example, paralysis, speech disorders, memory problems or slower information processing, with numerous patients still suffering from the symptoms months or years later. Some of those affected need lifelong support after the stroke and about 30 percent of stroke patients die within a year of the event.
Milestone in British stem cell research The new treatment method developed by the British researchers focuses on the level of the destroyed cells in the brain and tries to regenerate the cells of the affected brain areas with the help of nerve stem cells from the biotech company ReNeuron. While experts not involved in the study, such as the geneticist Darren Griffin from the University of Kent, already recognize a reason for cautious optimism, and the rheumatism expert Anthony Hollander from the University of Bristol even speaks of a milestone in British stem cell research, the use of human stem cells gives trying to think critics.
Ethical concerns? Not on the stock exchange! The stem cells were obtained from a 12-week-old fetus that had been aborted in California in 2003. And even though the company points out that all necessary regulatory approvals have been obtained, many people still have significant ethical doubts about the use of human stem cells derived from fetuses. However, these doubts do not seem to exist on the stock exchange, because the price of the biotechnology company ReNeuron rose by a whopping 16 percent within a few hours after the first results were announced.
Stem cell research is making great strides Development in the field of stem cell research is currently progressing rapidly. The US company Geron had just started a study last month in which patients with spinal cord injuries were treated with embryonic stem cells, and researchers in Germany at the International Neuroscience Institute in Hanover had implanted stem cells in a patient's brain almost two years ago, however in a different context than the British researchers were doing now. The stem cells used in the different methods often differ fundamentally and the procedures are therefore more or less controversial against the ethical background. Stem cell research has so far only been permitted within narrow limits in Germany. While the production of embryos for research purposes is fundamentally prohibited in Germany, the legislator allows the import of the cells under certain conditions. (fp, 17.10.2010)
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