Therapy Using Skin Could Help Stop Permanent Brain Damage After Stroke

Right now, even the most advanced medicine only gives doctors a few hours after a stroke to save brain tissue.
Posted at 10:04 AM, Mar 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-19 12:04:47-04

For Minister Joseph Owens, writing a sermon is a big win. The stroke survivor is slowly regaining his speech and movement. 

"“There were some things that I couldn't speak or I wouldn't remember," he said.

Owens is pretty lucky, recovery wise. He suffered an ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blocked artery or blood clot limits blood and oxygen to the brain. About 80 percent of ischemic stroke patients don't receive treatment in time to prevent permanent effects to their speech, motor functions, and memory.

New technology -cell therapy relying on skin cells...could change that. 

"This technology has an opportunity to allow regeneration of tissue after stroke such that in a delayed fashion we have a treatment option for these patients," Dr. Shahid Nimjee, Neurosurgeon,The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said.

Scientists used ordinary skin cells loaded with specific DNA that, when delivered to the brain, trains the skin cells to become blood vessel cells, growing new healthy tissue and restoring normal blood flow to the brain. 

"It has some sort of plasticity, it can become something else. And then with the right signals, we can tell that cell to become what we want that cell to become," Daniel Gallego Perez, Assistant Professor of Biomedical Engineering, The Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said.

Researchers have only studied the approach in mice but what they found was big. When researchers administered the cells seven days after a stroke, the mice regained 90 percent of their motor function within two weeks, and MRI scans showed that damage to brain tissue was reversed.

 The hope is that this will one day help patients like Owens recover faster.

"They are finding ways that seem to be impossible, but they're possible," Owens said.

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