Stroke is the third main cause of death and the first cause of chronic disability in the United States. Unfortunately, treatment for stroke remains limited. To date, the only FDA-approved treatment for ischemic stroke is tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which has a narrow time window of only approximately 4.5 hours after the onset of stroke symptoms. Approximately only 3-5% of all patients that suffer a stroke benefit from tPA, primarily due to the narrow therapeutic window. The lack of available therapies and the devastating effects of these diseases compel researchers and clinicians to find more effective treatments.
Cell therapies are a revolutionary treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. Similar to traditional drug therapies, experimentation must determine many factors for the safety and efficacy of stem cell treatments such as the correct dose, delivery route, and optimal time of intervention. Stem cell lines must be validated through multiple laboratories with different animal models before clinical trials can be authorized. This year, the National Institute of Health is studying the safety and efficacy of stem cells used as treatment for stroke in clinical trials at various stages of recruitment and completion. Eight stem cell products are being evaluated in these trials.