Stem cells given to a patient directly after they have had a stroke may significantly aid their recovery, Bolivian researchers have discovered.
The researchers from La Paz University Hospital found that rats injected with stem cells 30 minutes after they had experienced a stroke showed almost completely normal brain function after a fortnight.
The research team believes their findings have potential for further development in human trials, as the introduction of stem cells early might interrupt the typical ‘chain reaction’ of tissue damage that follows a stroke, where initial injury harms additional cells in surrounding areas.
The research, published in Stem Cell Research and Therapy journal, extracted a specific type of stem cell from fat and bone marrow, and then injected it into the blood vessels of rats shortly after they had suffered an artificially-induced stroke.
Despite the cells not travelling to the affected region of the brain, the rats injected with stem cells did better than those who did not receive the stem cell treatment.
In fact, within 24 hours they were already showing signs of a speedier recovery and registered almost normal scores in behavioral tests two week later.
These findings contribute to other research that found that stem cells could aid stroke patients by assisting a patient’s body’s ability to repair tissue damage.
Leader of the research, Dr Exuperio Diez-Tejedor, said in relation to the collection of such stem cells; "Adipose (fat) -derived cells in particular are abundant and easy to collect without invasive surgery.
"From the viewpoint of clinical translation allogenic stem cells are attractive because they can be easily obtained from young healthy donors, amplified, and stored for immediate use when needed after a stroke."
They suggested in the research that it might be possible to overcome the risk of immune rejection of the donor cells in humans.
However, Stroke Association spokesman Dr Clare Walton was less optimistic about the long-term viability of the research.
Speaking to the BBC, she said; "Stem cells are an incredibly interesting area of stroke research and the results of this study provide further insight into their potential use for stroke recovery.
"However, we are a long way off these types of treatments being used in humans and a lot more research is needed."