UT Houston launches stem cell study for acute stroke patients

First study of its kind to use bone marrow stem cells to help repair the brain after stroke


A first-of-its-kind stem cell study to treat acute stroke victims is being launched by investigators at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.


The Phase I study, funded with a pilot grant from The National Institutes of Health, will use the patients' own stem cells. Researchers will enroll 10 patients who have just suffered a stroke and are being treated in the Emergency Center at Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center. Physicians will obtain permission from the patient or patient's surrogate.


"This will be our first attempt to look at the safety of using stem cells in acute stroke patients," said Sean I. Savitz, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at the medical school. "There's a lot of promise behind this but we want to do it in a slow, rigorous fashion. Because we are injecting them intravenously, these cells can disperse to lots of different parts of the body and that's why we're looking at safety parameters."


The stem cells will be harvested from the bone marrow in the iliac crest of the leg, then separated and returned to the patient within three to six hours. Because they are the patient's own stem cells, rejection is not expected to be an issue.


"This study is the critical first step in translating laboratory work with stem cells into benefit for patients. If effective, this treatment could be helpful to a huge segment of stroke patients to reduce their disability," said James C. Grotta, M.D., Roy M. and Phyllis Gough Huffington Distinguished Professor of Neurology and chair of the Department of Neurology at the medical school. "We are fortunate here at UT Houston and the Texas Medical Center to have the resources needed to carry out this work, and to have attracted someone of Dr. Savitz's caliber to lead this study."


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National Stroke Association’s mission is to reduce the incidence and impact of stroke by developing compelling education and programs focused on prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and support for all impacted by stroke.