Brain Reconstruction: Stem-Cell Scaffolding Can Repair Stroke Damage

By Rachel Cernansky | March 9, 2009 4:57 pm

stem_cells_stroke_damage21.jpgResearchers have developed a treatment based on an injection of neural stem cells encased in a biodegradable polymer that replaced the brain tissue in rats that had been damaged by stroke. Led by British neurobiologist Mike Modo, the team was able to show that the hole in the brains of rats caused by a stroke was completely filled with “primitive” new nerve tissue within seven days. This raises the possibility of radically better treatments for a condition that is the leading cause of adult disability in industrialized countries [Technology Review].

Previous stem cell research in rats with stroke damage had seen some success, but was limited by the tendency of the cells, which lack structural support, to migrate into tissue outside the targeted area. For the new study, which will be published in Biomaterials, the researchers used the polymer PLGA to construct tiny balls one-tenth of a millimeter thick, and loaded them with neural stem cells. These were injected into holes in the brain created when the immune system removes dead tissue caused by a stroke. The polymer’s ready-made support structure helped the stem cells to form new brain tissue in the cavity [BBC].

Once inside the brain, the particles link up to form complex scaffolds. Modo’s team used MRI scans to pinpoint where the stem-cell injections were needed and to monitor the development of new brain tissue [Technology Review]. The next step is to add a protein, VEGF, that will encourage blood vessels to expedite the development of the new tissue into mature tissue. According to Modo, over a few days they were able to see cells migrating along the scaffold particles and forming a primitive brain tissue that interacts with the host brain. In time, the particles biodegrade leaving more gaps and conduits for tissue, fibres and blood vessels to move into [BBC].

The cells used, derived from stem cells taken from mouse embryos, had already progressed some of the way to becoming neurons [Press Association]. The announcement of the stroke research came on the same day that U.S. President Obama lifted restrictions on experiments using embryonic stem cells, and provided a vivid example of the potential medical breakthroughs that stem cell research could eventually bring about.

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Image:  Biomaterials

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine, Mind & Brain
  • David Granovsky

    As the ban is lifted, PLEASE remember:

    While Embryonic stem cells (ESC) were previously thought to be more powerful than Adult Stem Cells (ASC) because they can become any cell in the body, new studies on ASC are showing that they can become virtually anything. Scientists recently turned Skin-ASC into Neuron-ASC.

    A decade of ESC research around the world has resulted in no human treatments & because the ESC continue to divide beyond the scientist’s control, they can turn into tumors. ESC also require immunosuppressive drugs, which one of the most common forms of ASC (autologous) used in treatment do not.

    Over the same decade of research, adult stem cell treatments have given thousands improved health, extended lives, helped paraplegics to walk…

    Gave a man with AIDs 2 years (so far) free of symptoms…

    Successfully improved MS & Cerebral Palsy patients, the list goes on and on…

    ASC are already helping improve & extend the lives of patients with dozens of “incurable” diseases,” 73 diseases when you count only US published scientific papers & well over 100 if you read all of the papers from outside the USA.

    Additionally, Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells (iPSC) are ASC modified to be able to become any cell in the human body & seem to have all of the benefits of ESC without the tumor potential & with significantly less of a rejection issue; not to mention without the political & religious controversy.

    And now, even the NIH is jumping into the ASC research and treatment pool.

    Why so much focus on ESC when both ASC & iPSC seem capable of achieving everything ESC can do with a fraction of the obstacles?

    The world is treating thousands successfully with ASC. Shouldn’t the majority of funding and research go into ASC & iPSC so we can treat the multitude of patients dying and debilitated NOW?

  • scott

    Very interesting…but what of the rat’s functional recovery? It’s great that we can direct neuronal growth and this will pave the way for lots of future research in this area, but let’s not declare victory over brain repair just yet.

    There are many details that need to be worked out. Even though the researchers directed neuron growth, how can they be sure that these synthetic pathways will construct meaningful circuits? This is a difficult question to test and verify, but remains paramount if we are going to actually restore function in brain-damaged individuals.

    If I may speculate, there are huge amounts of inherent plasticity in the brain (it plays a big part in learning, after all), so we may not have to do much more than inject neuronal tissue and let the intact tissue use it as needed.

    Also, no offense to Biomaterials, but a paper reporting functional improvement after stem cell therapy will be in Nature or Science.

  • spartango

    Along the lines of the functional recovery of the rats, it would be interesting to combine stem cell reconstruction techniques with the selective use of neurotrophic factors to induce correct axonal arborization and synaptogenesis.

  • Carol Wielhorski

    Hello. I am looking for more information regarding any clinical trials involving this procedure. I am 45, I had a stroke 2 years ago./ I am left handed and had a right sided stroke. I am aphasic, and have some left sided function loss. I am very anxious to learn about this breakthrough. My sister is typing this for me.
    I was a law student prior to my stroke.
    Kind regards, Carol Wielhorski.

  • Pat Vonp

    Carol there are other things you can do to regain the use of your left side. There was a show on a few years ago that showed a man cutting down a tree with a chain saw. It goes on to tell you that for 13 years he was a hemiplegic with no hope of ever working again. Well they started the show with how he ended up. It is a therapy program. The brain can be rewired with training and HARD work. There is also a software program by PositScience called Brain Fitness that can help you do that. go to their web site because one of the people on there had a portion of his brain removed and was supposed to never walk or talk again but guess what he does both and drives a car and all. Don’t let old science that our medical people rely on to stop you from achieving a normal life. Also make your doctor take a Vitamin D level most of us are very low and the body needs it to repair itself. I am an RN and am currently researching things to help my huisband who is having memory problems that seem to point to a stroke somewhere they just can’t find it. Good luck and keep looking.

  • http://None Richard Fletcher

    I am also interested in any human trials that are going to be scheduled using this technique?I also had a hemorrhagic stroke almost10 years ago, andI am anxious to get some relief from my disability on my left side.

    Richard A. Fletcher

  • Amy Powell

    All information that can be supplied will be greatley appreciated!!!! Thank You kindly!!!~
    Amy Powell

  • arman

    Hello my mother had a stroke 10 years ago which left her right side paralized,she was 45years old at that time.Stem cell research has given me and my mother hope.If there is any progress in this resarch we would like to know where we could receive treatment.Hope is the only option we have.

  • kathy

    I would like to have any info on clinical trials for my 55 year old father who had a stroke 2 years ago(he is weak on his right side and cannot speak clealy). There are some promising treatments in germany but cost upwards of 30 thousand dollars. Is there anything that shows promise for his situation?

  • Roy Hall

    A friend urged me to check out this post, great post, fascinating read… keep up the cool work!

  • Sam

    My husband had a hemorrhagic stroke 2 years ago. he is left-side hemiplegic. Iam interested in clinical trials or stem cell treatment (in the U.S or overseas). Is there anything promising?

  • Margaret Monaghan

    My sister has had a brain stem stroke and is left-sided hemiplegic – it was 21 days ago. the doctors tried to prepare us for the worst – but she is pulling through. As a family we are interested in anu UK trials – contact me at

  • Semra Aytar

    My husband had a hemorrhagic stroke 2 years ago. he is left side pralized.Ther are some promising teeatment in Germany but cost upwards of 30 thousant dollars. Is there enythings that shows promise for his situation.

  • Ahmed

    My father had stroke 3 months ago and he right side is very much weaker. i am interested to know if any clinical way can recover paralized person.

  • Vajendra Thukral

    Hi Everybody, We manufacture the largest range of electrospinning units. Electrospinning is the easiest and the best method to make bio polymer scaffolds for stem cell regeneration and growth.
    Feel free to contact us at
    With best wishes,

    Vajendra Thukral

  • Thresa Killer

    I really am loving your weblog I observed it via yahoo today.

  • Dillon st-cyr

    I have a 15 year old daughter who also had a stroke, left side brain damage. the cause was varicella-zoster ( chicken-pox ). she was 17 months old at the time. she lost the use of her right arm, limps, no fine motor function on right ride,no peripheral vision on right side and learning disability. she is at the point of giving up, she hates that it happenned to her and cries everyday. I would give my life to make her better. please find a cure soon. Jessica daddy loves you

  • Wendell Barcelona

    I had an ischemic stroke caused by PFO in my heart. It happened 2 years ago, I was 39 then. It affected my left side, fortunately I’m right handed Although I can walk without a cane, I’m heavily dependent on FES unit from Bioness. I used to be a triathlete and would love to get back doing my active lifestyle. I live alone now after my wife and I divorced I depend on my disability checks to make ends meet. Financing treatment would be another obstacle to contend to Are there any human trials I could take part in to give me hope for the future? my email is Please help us! We just want to return to being productive citizens again.


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