Doctors at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow have started a trail to see whether injecting stem cells into the brain of a stroke patient can repair damage to the brain. The trial is known as the Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke, or PISCES for short.
The man involved is the first person in the world to receive this pioneering treatment. About two million cells were injected into a healthy region of his brain, close to where neurons were damaged by the stroke. Doctors hope that the injected cells will release chemicals that stimulate new brain cells and blood vessels to grow, while healing scar tissue and reducing inflammation
Over the next year, up to 12 more patients will be given progressively higher doses of up to twelve million cells. This first group of patients to receive the treatment will be men over 60 who have shown little or no improvement in their condition over a number of years since suffering a stroke.
Professor Keith Muir, a neuroscientist at Glasgow University and a consultant neurologist at Southern General Hospital, said that if the trials went well it would lead to more detailed research.
“We hope that in the future it will lead to larger studies to determine the effectiveness of stem cells on the disabilities that result from strokes,” he said.
The start of the Glasgow trial comes just a few weeks after the US firm Geron said it had begun clinical trials on a patient to develop a treatment for paralysis.
The development of stem cell treatments is still at the research stage and it is likely to be many years before becoming widely available. But new potential treatments are now beginning to make their way from the scientist’s laboratory into the trial phase.
Among the conditions which scientists believe may eventually be treated by stem cell therapy are Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, stroke, arthritis, diabetes, burns and spinal cord damage