Effective stem cell treatment for strokes has taken a significant step forward as scientists reveal how they have replaced stroke-damaged brain tissue in rats.
Researchers at The University of Nottingham are among a team of scientists who have shown that by inserting tiny scaffolding with stem cells attached, it is possible to fill a hole left by stroke damage with brand new brain tissue within seven days.
The work, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and led by Dr Mike Modo of the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London is published in Biomaterials.
Previous experiments where stem cells have been injected into the void left by stroke damage have had some success in improving outcomes in rats. The problem is that in the damaged area there is no structural support for the stem cells so they tend to migrate into the surrounding healthy tissues rather than filling up the hole left by the stroke.
Researchers at the Wolfson Centre for Stem Cells, Tissue Engineering & Modelling (STEM) made, modified and attached the stem cells to the particles. Kevin Shakesheff, Professor of Advanced Drug Delivery and Tissue Engineering, said: "This was a great collaborative project with the Kings College team and hopefully this technology will be taken to the clinical setting soon. Repairing damaged brain tissue is one of the ultimate challenges in medicine and science. It is great that we are now one step closer to achieving that goal."
Dr Modo said: “We would expect to see a much better improvement in the outcome after a stroke if we can fully replace the lost brain tissue, and that is what we have been able to do with our technique.”
Using individual particles of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA that have been loaded with neural stem cells, the team of scientists have filled stroke cavities with stem cells on a ready-made support structure.
Dr Modo continued: “This works really well because the stem cell-loaded PLGA particles can be injected through a very fine needle and then adopt the precise shape of the cavity. In this process the cells fill the cavity and can make connections with other cells, which helps to establish the tissue.
Over a few days we can see cells migrating along the scaffold particles and forming a primitive brain tissue that interacts with the host brain. Gradually the particles biodegrade leaving more gaps and conduits for tissue, fibres and blood vessels to move into.”
The research published today uses an MRI scanner to pinpoint precisely the right place to inject the scaffold-cell structure. MRI is also used to monitor the development of the new brain tissue over time.
The next stage of the research will be to include a factor called VEGF with the particles. VEGF will encourage blood vessels to enter the new tissue.
Professor Douglas Kell, BBSRC Chief Executive said: “Stroke is a leading cause of disability in industrialised countries. It is reassuring to know that the technology for treating stroke by repairing brain damage is getting ever closer to translation into the clinic. This crucial groundwork by Dr Modo and his colleagues will surely be a solid foundation of basic research for much better treatments in the future.”
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Notes to editors:
The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.
More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.
The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.
The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) is the UK funding agency for research in the life sciences. Sponsored by Government, BBSRC annually invests around £420 million in a wide range of research that makes a significant contribution to the quality of life for UK citizens and supports a number of important industrial stakeholders including the agriculture, food, chemical, healthcare and pharmaceutical sectors. BBSRC carries out its mission by funding internationally competitive research, providing training in the biosciences, fostering opportunities for knowledge transfer and innovation and promoting interaction with the public and other stakeholders on issues of scientific interest in universities, centres and institutes.
The Babraham Institute, Institute for Animal Health, Institute of Food Research, John Innes Centre and Rothamsted Research are Institutes of BBSRC. The Institutes conduct long-term, mission-oriented research using specialist facilities. They have strong interactions with industry, Government departments and other end-users of their research. For more information see: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk