World's first stem cell trial for stroke victims

Lucy Christie,Pa
Tuesday 16 November 2010 09:42

Doctors injected cells into the brain of a patient in the "world's first" stem cell trial for stroke victims, it was announced today.

A team in Glasgow carried out the pioneering procedure on a patient who will be closely monitored for two years to see if the treatment is successful.

The study, Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke (PISCES), is the first of its kind in the world.

It will test whether implanting stem cells can treat damaged areas of the brain and improve quality of life for victims of ischaemic stroke, the most common form of the condition, which is caused by a blockage of blood flow in the brain.

The trial is being led by Professor Keith Muir from the University of Glasgow's Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology.

The surgery was carried out at the city's Southern General Hospital and the patient has been discharged.

Prof Muir said: "We are pleased that the first patient in the PISCES trial has undergone surgery successfully.

"Stroke is a common and serious condition that leaves a large number of people with significant disability.

"In this trial we are seeking to establish the safety and feasibility of stem cell implantation, which will require careful follow-up of the patients who take part.

"We hope that in future it will lead on to larger studies to determine the effects of stem cells on the disabilities that result from stroke."

The trial is being carried out with ReNeuron Group plc who were given approval from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in January last year.

ReNeuron Chief Executive Officer Michael Hunt said: "The initiation of the PISCES clinical trial is a major and hard-won milestone for ReNeuron and a significant milestone in the development of therapies to address the severely disabling effects of ischaemic stroke.

"We are delighted to be working with Professor Keith Muir and his team at one of Europe's pre-eminent stroke treatment centres and, in so doing, helping to promote the uptake of clinical innovation in the NHS system.

"Our thanks and best wishes go to the first patient and his family for their participation in this important and ground-breaking clinical trial."

Dr Sharlin Ahmed, research liaison officer at the Stroke Association, said: "When a stroke strikes the brain is starved of oxygen and as a result brain cells in the affected area die.

"The use of stem cells to replace dead brain tissue is a promising technique which could help to reverse some of the disabling effects of stroke.

"We are very excited about this trial; however, we are currently at the beginning of a very long road and significant further development is needed before stem cell therapy can be regarded as a possible treatment."

Darren Griffin, professor of genetics at the University of Kent, said: "The news by the Glasgow team represents an important and exciting step with potential, in the long term, for treatment of a range of diseases.

"We should guard against raising expectations of miracle cures for thousands of patients in the near future however as the current trial will require extensive tests for efficacy and safety.

"Nevertheless there is room for cautious optimism.

"It is understandable that individuals should feel uneasy about the use of foetal cells, however it is important to balance that with the potential benefit to patients and the fact that use of foetal cells is now minimal and highly regulated.

"In any event, the use of induced pluripotent stem cells has the potential to get around many of these ethical concerns."

Professor Anthony Hollander, of the University of Bristol, said: "Successful stem cell therapies will come from painstaking research and carefully planned clinical trials.

"This stroke trial is based on good research and careful planning.

"It's far too early to know if the treatment will be successful but the very fact that the trial is now under way is a milestone for UK stem cell research."

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