When tested in animal models, the technique was found to reduce brain damage and help the brain heal itself faster, and the results have been promising enough that human clinical trials may follow as soon as next year.
According to the CDC, strokes affect almost 800,000 people every year in the US, and of those about 140,000 die as a result – making it the fifth-leading cause of death in the country. Survivors usually face a long period of rehabilitation, and in severe cases permanent brain damage can follow. Previous research into possible stroke treatments has included existing anti-inflammatory drugs, peptides found in spider venom, and a custom-made catheter for removing clots.
A particularly promising line of treatment involves stem cells. A few years ago, a London study used a certain set of CD34+ stem cells to trigger the growth of new brain tissue and blood vessels. Later, a Stanford study managed to restore mobility in the limbs of stroke victims after injecting stem cells into the brain.