Stroke researchers focus on brain cell treatments
(CNN) -- Last summer, researchers at the University of Pittsburgh reported a scientific first -- a nerve cell transplant into the brain of a 62-year-old stroke patient.
The patient had no major complications from the new procedure and it has now been performed in seven stroke patients to help speed their recovery.
Scientists say it is still too early to know the definitive results of nerve cell transplants .
"The purpose of the first study is to look at the safety of this approach ... and to learn something about the patients' response to the cells," said Dr. Douglas Kondziolka of the University of Pittsburgh.
Some researchers believe that adult brains are unable to regenerate nerve cells, so those cells damaged by a stroke can only be replaced through transplants.
But a team of scientists at the University of California-San Francisco, has found that in rodents, stem cells of the brain can regenerate nerve cells -- or neurons -- following a stroke.
"In a condition that kills neurons and kills cells all over the brain, we see a burst of a birth of new cells in a certain area of the brain, called the hypocampus," said Dr. Frank Sharp, a neurologist.
Stem cells are "blank" cells, which can potentially turn into virtually any tissue in the human body, depending on how they are stimulated.
"I think it offers tremendous hope," Sharp said of the stem cell research, while cautioning that the work was preliminary and has only been done with rodents.
Medical Correspondent Dr. Steve Salvatore contributed to this report.
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