Ethical stem cells could extend ‘golden hour’ for stroke patients

Stroke patients could have their chances of recovery dramatically increased thanks to a new treatment using adult stem cells.

Currently, those who suffer a stroke must arrive at the hospital within four hours to receive a drug which breaks down blood clots. But the treatment is most effective within an hour of the stroke occurring.

Almost two thirds of stroke survivors leave hospital with a disability, but the new treatment could potentially extend the ‘golden hour’ to a day and a half.

Improved outcomes

Taking adult stem cells from donated bone marrow, a solution can be injected into the patient which helps to rejuvenate damaged tissue, reduce inflammation, and stimulate nerves which helps brain recovery.

A small preliminary trial showed patients who had the injection in the first 36 hours were 15 per cent more likely to make a full recovery after 90 days than those who took a placebo.

This rose to 24 per cent when the patients were assessed after a year.

‘Extremely welcome’

Gil Van Bokkelen, whose organisation Athersys developed the treatment, said: “If we can expand the treatment window to 36 hours, that’s a time frame that could be relevant to 90 to 95 per cent of stroke patients.

“This could really change stroke medicine as we know it. That’s a big deal, because stroke is one of the leading causes of disability in most countries around the world.”

Experts said that a treatment that would improve outcomes for stroke patients would be “extremely welcome”, but said more research was needed as the preliminary trial was too small for concrete results.

Next stage

Around 300 stroke patients are being enrolled for the next stage of trials.

Doctors hope the treatment could be available for licensing in two years’ time.