A new clinical trial is enrolling people who are dealing with the disabling effects of stroke.
Every year approximately 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. Strokes or TIAs for “trans-ischemic attacks” result from blockage of a blood vessel in the brain. The lack of blood flow to the brain results in the death of those cells that starve from oxygen, and the aftermath of a stroke is remarkably unpleasant; long-term disability, permanent brain damage, and even death. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and extracts an annual burden of $62 billion on the US economy. Physical therapy can improve the deficits caused by a stroke, but there are, to date, no good treatments to ameliorate the condition of a stroke patient.
In the hopes of creating new options for stroke patients, researchers at Northwestern Medicine are examining a new regenerative treatment for stroke that utilizes a novel stem cell line called SB623. This stem cell line might provide increased motor function to stroke victims.
Northwestern is only one of three sites in the nation enrolling patients in a clinical study to evaluate the efficacy and safety of adult stem cell therapy in stroke patients. Patient who have suffered from so-called “ischemic stroke” suffer from impaired bodily functions that includes such conditions as paralysis, weakness on one side, difficulty with speech and language, vision issues, and cognitive deficits.
Joshua Rosenow, the principal investigator of this clinical trial, is the director of Functional Neurosurgery at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Rosenow had this to say of this clinical study: “Two million brain cells die each minute during a stroke making it critical to get treatment fast at the earliest sign of symptoms once brain damage occurs, there’s very little that can be done medically to reverse it. While this study is only a preliminary step towards understanding the healing potential of these cells, we are excited about what a successful trial could do for a patient population that hs very limited therapeutic options.”
The primary purpose of this study is to examine the safety of SB623 stem cells. However, there is an added motive behind this study, and that is to determine if SB623 cells are efficacious as a treatment for stroke patients. SB623 cells are genetically engineered mesenchymal stem cells from adult bone marrow.
Richard Bernstein, the director of Northwestern Memorial’s Stroke Center, weighed in: “Although not proven in humans, these stem cells (SB623) have been shown to promote healing and improve function when administered in animal models of stable stroke. The cells did not replace the neurons destroyed by stroke, but instead they appeared to encourage the brain to heal itself and promote the body’s natural regenerative process. Eventually, the implanted stem cells disappeared.”
Rosenow added, “In this study, the cells are transplanted into the brain using brain mapping technology and scans, allowing us to precisely deposit the cells in the brain adjacent to the area damaged by the stroke.”
The first participants have received injections of 25 million cells, but as the study progresses, the dose will escalate to 5 million and eventually 10 million cells. Since SB623 cells are allogeneic, which is to say that they come from someone other than the patient, a single donor’s cells can be used to treat as many other patients. All subjects in this study will be followed for up to two years with periodic evaluations for safety and effectiveness in improving motor function.
Bernstein explained, “Stroke can be a very disabling and life-changing event. Even just a slight improvement in function could make a huge difference for a person impacted [sic] by stroke. To potentially regain movement or speech is a very exciting prospect. In the animal models, the improvements appeared to remain even after the implanted stem cells disappeared.
Even at this early stage in this clinical trial, there is a great deal of excitement over the potential for stem cell therapy. Rosenow echoed this excitement when he said, “Of these cells are proven effective in improving, or even reversing brain damage, the implications of a successful outcome reach far beyond just stroke. Stem cell therapy may hold the key to treating a wide range of neurological disorders that do not have many available therapies. The Northwestern team is very excited to be a part of this groundbreaking trial.”
Participants for this trial must be between the ages of 18 and 75 years old, must have had an ischemic stroke in the last six to 36 months. They should have moderate to severe symptoms with impaired motor function. Full inclusion and exclusion criteria are available online. Full inclusion and exclusion criteria are available online. The FDA-approved phase 1-11 study is expected to enroll 18 subjects nationwide and this study is slated to last up to two years.
Other sites participating in the trial are the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and Stanford University School of Medicine. The trial is funded by SanBio, Inc., a regenerative medicine company that developed the SB623 stem cell line.
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