According to the new study, funded by Athersys Inc., a U.S. biopharmaceutical company, Cesario V. Borlongan, an associate professor of neurology at the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and his colleagues transplanted human bone marrow cells into the brains of rats that had suffered strokes. This they claim has helped the rat to fight a condition very similar to the human cerebral palsy.
Reporting their findings on Friday at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting, in San Diego. Borlongan said that the movement skills in the stroke afflicted rats improved by 25% after stem cell treatment. The improvement came even though the treatment was given seven days after a stroke. He further stated that a 25% improvement could be translated into significant changes in how human patients get around. Bedridden patients may be able to use a wheelchair, and wheelchair-bound patients might move up to a walker, he felt. Borlongan also mentioned that by not taking the stem cells from embryos or foetuses, they have avoided the ethical and political issues it could cause.
The researchers also saw about a 25 percent improvement in treated rats affected with a condition equivalent to human cerebral palsy. But, the researchers only observed them for 14 days. Unlike the rats in the stroke study, these rodents were injected with rat not human stem cells. Borlongan said the stem cell transplants appear to reawaken stunned brain cells around the area of injury, in the mice that had stroke. The transplants appear to be rescuing the dying cells, he said.
Borlongan said researchers hope that over the next year, to test their treatment in larger animals, such as primates and pigs. Stating that there's no indication yet that the treatment will work in humans, and the lead researcher cautioned that the claimed treatment would not be a easy as thought. However, tests in people could begin as early as next year, they hope human tests may begin by 2007. He further added that its not still clear as to how much the treatment will cost, and that it might be difficult to administer unless researchers find a way to avoid injecting cells directly into the brain. He also added that they need to figure out if the treatment affects other brain skills, such as learning and memory, he said.