Stem Cell Can Help
CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand stroke and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.
In the U.S., almost 800,000 people have a stroke each year and more than 140,000 people die of their stroke. It is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S.
Stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain and cuts off blood flow. Brain cells begin to die within minutes when they are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. A less common kind of stroke involves a burst blood vessel that bleeds into the brain, also killing brain cells. Losing these brain cells can cause permanent problems with movement and cognitive abilities such as memory, attention span even speaking or understanding speech.
A stroke requires immediate treatment. Signs of stroke include sudden onset of numbness of the face, arm or leg, confusion, blurred vision, dizziness or headache. Doctors can intervene by dissolving the clot and restoring blood flow or stopping the bleeding.
After a stroke, intensive physical therapy can help people regain some lost function. However, there is currently no therapy to restore the brain cells that have died as a result of the stroke.
Stem cell scientists are attempting to use different types of stem cells including tissue-specific neural stem cells, embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed iPS cells to replace cells lost during a stroke. They are testing the different cell types in animal models of stroke to see which are best able to restore movement. They also need to learn the best way of delivering those cells into the brain. Around the country, several clinical trials are underway testing different type of cells and different delivery methods. Other researchers are seeing if it’s possible to activate the stem cells in the brain to repair the damage.