Using cell therapy, researchers from Lund University in Sweden have successfully restored mobility and a sense of touch in rats following a stroke.
Previous studies conducted by the Lund researchers and others have already demonstrated the possibility of transplanting nerve cells made from human stem cells and other reprogrammed cells into the brains of rats soon after a stroke. However, until now, whether these cells would be able to integrate into the rat’s brains in a way that would enable them to restore normal movement and feeling was left unknown.
To find this out, the researchers first reprogrammed human skin cells into nerve cells. They then transplanted these cells into the cerebral cortexes of rats soon after a stroke. They then used several tracking techniques such as electron microscopy and other methods over six months to see if the transplanted cells were able to repair their damaged nerve circuits.
In the end, they reported that the transplanted cells were indeed helping to repair the rats’ damaged nerve circuits. In particular, they noted that the fibres from the transplanted cells grew from the side of the brain on which they were initially implanted to the other side, and created connections there.
“It is remarkable to find that it is actually possible to repair a stroke-damaged brain and recreate nerve connections that have been lost. The study kindles hope that in the future it could be possible to replace dead nerve cells with new healthy nerve cells also in stroke patients, even though there is a long way to go before achieving that,” says Ollie Linvall, one of the study’s authors.
Showing the potential for transplanted cells to repair the brain post-stroke, the researchers will now undertake further studies. Zaal Kolkaia, one of the researchers behind the study said, “We want to know more about how the transplanted cells affect the opposite hemisphere of the brain. We also want to take a closer look at how a transplant affects intellectual functions such as memory. In addition, we will study possible side effects. Safety is, of course, extremely important for cell transplantation if it is going to be used clinically in the future.”