A study published in Stem Cell Reports showed that simultaneous transplantation of neural and vascular progenitor cells reduced stroke-related brain damage and improved behavioral recovery in rodents. According to a Science Daily, the stem cell-based approach may represent a promising strategy for stroke treatment in humans. Senior author of the study Wei-Qiang Gao, PhD, partnered with colleagues at Shanghai JiaoTong Unversity to test whether cotransplantation of both neural and vascular precursor cells would lead to improved outcomes.

The researchers induced ischemic stroke in rats, then simultaneously injected neural and vascular progenitor cells from mice into the stroke-damaged rat brains 24 hours later, as indicated on the Science Daily news report. The transplanted cells turned into all major types of vascular and brain cells, including mature, functional neurons, and the resulting vascular cells developed into microvessels. The grafted neural cells, however, produced molecules known to stimulate the growth of vessels and neurons.

Gao explains, “This is the first study to use embryonic stem cell-derived vascular progenitor cells together with neural progenitor cells to treat ischemic stroke. Our findings here suggest that cotransplantation of the two types of cells that restore the neurovascular unit more effectively is a better approach for the treatment of ischemic stroke.”

The rats that had undergone cotransplantation showed less brain damage and improved behavioral performance on motor tasks compared with rats that had been treated with neural progenitor cells alone 2 weeks after the stroke.

Gao says, “Our findings suggest that early cotransplantation treatment can not only replace lost cells, but also prevent further deterioration of the injured brain following ischemic stroke. With the development of human embryonic and induced pluripotent stem cell technology, we are optimistic about the potential translation of our research into clinical use.”

Sources: Science Daily, Cell Press