Scientists have achieved a significant success in using stem cells to replace stroke-damaged tissue in rats.
Led by Dr Mike Modo of King's College London, the research project was funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).
The study conducted at the Institute of Psychiatry and University of Nottingham has shown that by inserting tiny scaffolding with stem cells attached, it is possible to fill a hole left by stroke damage with brand new brain tissue within seven days.
Previous experiments, where stem cells have been injected into the void left by stroke damage, have had some success in improving outcomes in rats.
The problem is that in the damaged area, there is no structural support for the stem cells, and thus they tend to migrate into the surrounding healthy tissues instead of filling up the hole left by the stroke.
Dr. Modo said: "We would expect to see a much better improvement in the outcome after a stroke if we can fully replace the lost brain tissue, and that is what we have been able to do with our technique."
The researcher used individual particles of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA, which had been loaded with neural stem cells, and filled stroke cavities with stem cells on a ready-made support structure.
"This works really well because the stem cell-loaded PLGA particles can be injected through a very fine needle and then adopt the precise shape of the cavity. In this process the cells fill the cavity and can make connections with other cells, which helps to establish the tissue," Dr. Modo said.
"Over a few days we can see cells migrating along the scaffold particles and forming a primitive brain tissue that interacts with the host brain. Gradually the particles biodegrade leaving more gaps and conduits for tissue, fibres and blood vessels to move into," the researcher added.
In the current study, the researchers used an MRI scanner to pinpoint precisely the right place to inject the scaffold-cell structure.
They say that the next stage of the research will be to include a factor called VEGF with the particles, which will encourage blood vessels to enter the new tissue.