Patients who suffer ischemic stroke have some treatment options, but many of them require immediate intervention and so are not useful if too much time has elapsed between the stroke and treatment. Therapies that employ stem cells are promising alternatives because stem cells can differentiate into brain cells and potentially help to replace tissue that has been damaged or destroyed.
A recent study published in Stem Cells and Development has shown for the first time that a specific type of stem cell – called ischemia-induced multipotent stem cells – may be able to help with such repair of brain tissue in patients who have suffered a stroke. Specifically, the research team demonstrated the technical ability to isolate the ischemia-induced multipotent stem cells from the brains of elderly stroke patients.
The scientists then used protein binding techniques to determine where in the brain these stem cells came from. They found that the cells came from areas of the brain where brain cells had been damaged or killed from the stroke. These cells were located near blood vessels and expressed certain biological markers that enabled the researchers to confirm that they qualified as stem cells. Specifically, these cells had proliferative qualities that suggested that they could potentially be used to re-populate damaged areas of the brain. The cells also showed the ability to differentiate into different types of cells, a key characteristic of stem cells used for therapeutic purposes.
This study represents a significant step in overcoming the technical challenges associated with isolating and classifying ischemia-induced multipotent stem cells. The next step for researchers will be to test the potential of these cells in stroke treatment. If researchers show that these stem cells can be used to successfully repair damaged areas of the brain – and more importantly, restore functions that were disrupted by the stroke – then physicians and scientists may be able to work together to translate these findings into therapies that are regularly used in stroke.
Tatebayashi et al. 2017. Identification of multipotent stem cells in human brain tissue following stroke. Stem Cells and Development, 26(11), 787-797.