The study, published online this month (November) in American Heart Association’s journal Stroke, involved multi-centre, randomised trials on 120 moderately acute stroke patients who were intravenously injected with hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that give rise to other blood cells and are located in the bone marrow.
Lead author of the study and head of neurosciences at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, Kameshwar Prasad, tells SciDev.Net that the treatment was not any more effective than the usual regime for stroke patients in a control group.
Researchers and patients in the trials were spread over five government hospitals including AIIMS, Air Force Medical College, Pune, Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, Chandigarh, Army Hospital, Delhi, and Sanjay Gandhi Post-graduate Institute of Medical Sciences, Lucknow.
While 60 patients forming the control group were placed on conventional treatment, another 60 were additionally injected with stem cells taken from their bone marrow.
Patients chosen for the study averaged 52 years of age and had suffered stroke between one and four weeks before they were put on treatment. Their difficulties in using upper and lower limbs were measured at three, six and 12 months and the results were nearly the same in both groups.
The randomised trials, funded by India’s Department of Biotechnology, started in June 2010 after pilot studies showed promise. The trials ran until 2012.
Prasad said the Indian study, the first ever-randomised trial using stem cells in stroke patients, removes all assumptions about stem cells being a remedy for stroke patients. “This study should be a warning to desperate patients who get cheated by private clinics,” he said.
“Until ongoing or further randomised trials show efficacy this treatment should not be used in clinical practice and patients should not accept such therapy without question,” the study concludes.
Sujata Mohanty, assistant professor in the stem cell facility of AIIMS and study participant says the findings do not write off the potential of hematopoietic cells in stroke treatment for further research.
There are other ways to explore their potential than the ones we opted for, Mohanty says. “We opted for the intravenous route for instance and we delayed treatment by more than a week,” she tells SciDev.Net.
> Link to the study in the journal Stroke.
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's South Asia desk.