British researchers report an amazing recovery for a 49 year old man who suffered a hemorrhagic stroke on October 15, 2008. The researchers at the company, “Biocompatibles,” used adult stem cells from a healthy donor. The cells had been engineered to cause them to produce a protein that helps prevent “programmed” cell death (even after the bleeding stops and the pressure is removed) and embedded in tiny beads that had been sewn up in a cloth “tea-bag.”
Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the elderly population in the developed world. The incidence rate has been reported as 145 per 100,000. Hemorrhagic stroke is responsible for ~15 to 20% of all stroke and it is the least treatable form of stroke. It is associated with the highest morbidity and mortality rate of all stroke with only 44% of affected patients surviving the first 30 days. Only 20% of these survivors regain functional independence. The cascade of events starts with the sudden rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, causing haemorrhage and pressure inside the skull. Surgery may be used to relieve the pressure; but the haemorrhage causes a longer-term process of programmed cell death, or apoptosis, and it is this that causes the lasting neurological damage.
The CellBeads™ are delivered directly to the injury site during the surgery. They are programmed to deliver CM1, a proprietary version of a naturally occurring protein, GLP-1, which has been shown to have powerful anti-apoptotic effects. The delivery mechanism is a cluster of human adult mesenchymal stem cells obtained from a healthy donor and encapsulated in alginate beads. The cells are genetically engineered to produce the protein, which is delivered continuously, directly to the injury site. The alginate beads protect the stem cells from the body’s immune system, which would otherwise destroy the foreign cells. CellBeads™ are transplanted within a retrievable mesh device and are removed completely after a treatment period of 14 days. Retrieval of the implant prevents possible long-term side effects from the transplanted cells.
The research is a “Phase I/II” trial, which means that the doctors and scientists are actually testing the safety of the treatment, and not the actual effectiveness of the treatment, itself. In other words, “does the treatment do more harm than good.”
The CEO of Biocompatibles, Crispin Simon (that name is as British as tea bags), spoke to a Reuters reporter for a story published at Forbes online, stressing that the patient is young and other wise healthy, and had the standard of care for hemorrhagic strokes, surgery to relieve the pressure from the blood on the cells around the stroke. 10% to 20% of patients have similar recovery, without the Biocompatible beads.
Still, the report is a welcome source of hope for anyone who has watched and waited helplessly after a patient or a loved one had a hemorrhagic stroke.