Pioneering stem cell treatment offers hope for stroke victims

DOCTORS injected cells into the brain of a patient in the “world’s first” stem cell trial for stroke victims, it was announced yesterday.

A team in Glasgow carried out the pioneering procedure on a patient who will be closely monitored for two years to see if the treatment is successful.

The study, Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke (PISCES), is the first of its kind in the world.

It will test whether implanting stem cells can treat damaged areas of the brain and improve quality of life for victims of ischaemic stroke, the most common form of the condition, caused by a blockage of blood flow in the brain.

The trial is being led by Professor Keith Muir from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology.

The surgery was carried out at the city’s Southern General Hospital and the patient has been discharged.

Prof Muir said: “We are pleased that the first patient in the PISCES trial has undergone surgery successfully. Stroke is a common and serious condition that leaves a large number of people with significant disability.

“In this trial we are seeking to establish the safety and feasibility of stem cell implantation, which will require careful follow-up of the patients who take part.

“We hope that in future it will lead on to larger studies to determine the effects of stem cells on the disabilities that result from stroke.”

The trial is being carried out with ReNeuron Group plc who were given approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in January last year.

ReNeuron chief executive officer Michael Hunt said: “The initiation of the PISCES clinical trial is a major and hard-won milestone for ReNeuron and a significant milestone in the development of therapies to address the severely disabling effects of ischaemic stroke.”

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at the Stroke Association, said: “When a stroke strikes the brain is starved of oxygen and as a result brain cells in the affected area die. The use of stem cells to replace dead brain tissue is a promising technique which could help to reverse some of the disabling effects of stroke.”

Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, said: “The news by the Glasgow team represents an important and exciting step with potential, in the long term, for treatment of a range of diseases. We should guard against raising expectations of miracle cures for thousands of patients in the near future however as the current trial will require extensive tests for efficacy and safety.”

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