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expert reaction to stem cells in pilot stroke study

Results of a five-patient pilot study of a stem cell therapy for stroke were published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.


Prof Robin Lovell-Badge, Head of Developmental Genetics, MRC National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), said:

“This is no more than a small safety trial, with such low numbers of patients that the authors themselves state: “this proof of concept study was not designed with a control group, or powered to be able to detect efficacy”. Although they mention some improvement of some of the patients, this could be just chance, or wishful thinking, or due to the special care these patients may have received simply because they were in a trial. There is no evidence about mechanism from pre-clinical (animal) studies and, although it is possible that the bone marrow cells produce factors that can aid recovery, I would prefer that further research was done on this prior to any larger trial being initiated, even if the current work showed no adverse effects.”


Dr Dusko Ilic, Reader in Stem Cell Science, King’s College London, said:

“The paper describes outcome of clinical trial in patients who suffered acute total anterior circulation ischaemic stroke and were treated with CD34+ isolated from their own bone marrow. Earlier, similar studies have shown that the patients might benefit from mobilization of these cells into peripheral circulation. The number of patients involved in this study was very limited, only 5, and even though the results were somewhat encouraging (improvement in clinical scores and reduction in lesion volume over 6 months), it is too early to make any conclusive remarks.”


Dr Tim Chico, Reader in Cardiovascular Medicine / consultant cardiologist, University of Sheffield, said:

“It is important to understand that this study is only the very earliest step towards a possible new treatment for stroke and does not prove the stem cell treatment improved these patients recovery. A much larger trial will be needed to compare stem cell treatment with no stem cell treatment. Anyone who has seen the suffering a stroke can cause will be encouraged that doctors and scientists are continually exploring new ways to treat this devastating disease. This study is only one small piece in a very large puzzle.”

‘Intra-arterial immunoselected CD34+ stem cells for acute ischemic stroke’ by Soma Banerjee et al. published in Stem Cells Translational Medicine on Friday 8 August 2014.


Declared interests

None declared

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