Stroke patients show promising signs of recovery after stem cell therapy
The pilot study was only designed to test safety, but a larger trial of the pioneering stem cell treatment is planned for next year.
Stroke patients who took part in a small pilot study of a stem cell therapy have shown tentative signs of recovery six months after receiving the treatment.
Doctors said the condition of all five stroke patients in the pilot study had improved after the therapy, but that larger trials were needed to confirm whether the stem cells played any part in their progress. Scans of the patients’ brains found that damage caused by the stroke had reduced over time, but similar improvements are often seen in stroke patients as part of the normal recovery process.
At a six-month check-up, all of the patients fared better on standard measures of disability and impairment caused by stroke, but again their improvement may have happened with standard hospital care. The pilot study was designed to assess only the safety of the experimental therapy and with so few patients and no control group to compare them with, it is impossible to draw conclusions about the effectiveness of the treatment.
Paul Bentley who is a consultant neurologist at Imperial College London, said his group was applying for funding to run a more powerful randomised controlled trial on the therapy, which could see around 50 patients treated next year.
“The improvements we saw in these patients are very encouraging, but it’s too early to draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the therapy,” said Soma Banerjee, a lead author and consultant in stroke medicine at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust. “We need to do more tests to work out the best dose and timescale for treatment before starting larger trials.”