- NASHVILLE -- Researchers who have pioneered a technique of transplanting
laboratory-grown neuronal cells into the brains of stroke patients say
that the procedure has been performed in seven patients, and some of those
patients report that the therapy may have helped to restore motor and speech
skills that otherwise would have been lost forever.
- Scientists at the University of Pittsburgh
Medical Center have treated seven stroke survivors with the therapy, and
they reported results from their research Feb. 4 at the 24th American Heart
Association International Conference on Stroke and Cerebral Circulation.
- "At this point, we're trying to
evaluate if its feasible to put these cells into the brain and whether
the process is safe," says the study's lead author, Douglas Kondziolka,
M.D., professor of neurological surgery and radiation oncology, University
of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
- "To this date, it has been safe
and there have been no problems noted. That's been encouraging and the
most important thing is hopefully this will lead to a larger second study."
- Of the seven patients who have been treated,
all have been able to leave the hospital within 24 hours and three have
noticed small improvements in motor skills, says Kondziolka. The patient
who received the first transplant -- a 62-year old woman who suffered a
major stroke in the fall of 1997 -- has felt well over the first seven
months and has had slight improvements in speech, according to Kondziolka.
- "An important part of the research
is that this is setting the foundation for a possible future treatment,"
says Kondziolka. "It's like in baseball -- you don't walk up to bat
your first time and try to hit a home run. If you can walk, and get on
base, you can set the stage for something bigger later."
- In the current study, researchers are
examining men and women between the ages of 40-75 who have had a stroke
from six months to six years prior to the treatment in order to determine
whether or not they can get motor skills to return through transplantation.
- Currently, the only option available
to most stroke survivors is intensive rehabilitation in order to recover
lost motor skills. This led scientists to try a more radical approach --
direct transplantation of neurons into the brain in the hopes that the
new cells would link with other cells in the same area to help restore
speech and movement. In the treatment, two to six million cells are transplanted
in and around the stroke-damaged areas of the brain.
- The primary goal of this trial is to
determine whether the therapy is safe and can be tolerated by patients.
- "If this first study is safe, we
hope to move on to a second study that will address patients with more
diverse problems, using more cells and putting them in different areas,"
says Kondziolka. "It's difficult to say whether the functional gains
some patients have described are due to what we've done or something else.
Theres still a lot of research to be done and a lot of data to be collected
before we can start this in a larger number of people."
- The brain cells used for the treatment
are provided by Layton Bioscience, Inc. LBS-neurons, as the laboratory-grown
cells are called, originate from human tumor tissue composed of embryonic-like
cells. In the laboratory, scientists have manipulated these cells to produce
fully differentiated, non-dividing neurons. The tumor tissue is a teratocarcinoma,
which occurs in the reproductive organs.
- The surgeons use a computed tomography
(CT) scan of the patient's brain to identify three or more sites to inject
the lab-grown cells. In the patients, the injection points are located
in the basal ganglia region of the brain, says Kondziolka.
- Co-authors are Lawrence Wechsler, M.D.;
Keith Thulborn; Carolyn Meltzer, M.D.; Stephen Goldstein; Peter Jannetta;
Carol Slagel; and Elaine Elder, Sc.D.