What exactly is a stroke?
A stroke is a serious medical condition leading to the loss or reduction of brain functions. There are two types of stroke. Ischaemic stroke is when blood supply to the brain is cut off due to a blockage and haemorrhagic stroke is where there is a leakage of blood in the brain due to a blood vessel bursting. Approximately 80% of strokes are ischaemic strokes.
The disruption of the blood supply to the brain can starve brain cells of oxygen, causing them to die. It is not uncommon to see large areas of dead and damaged tissue when brain scans are performed on people who have had a stroke. Depending on the part of the brain affected, people who have had a stroke may experience difficulty with speech and language, orientation and movement, or memory. These problems can be permanent or temporary.
Annually in England and Wales, 130,000 people experience a stroke, and there are 60,000 deaths due to stroke. Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability.
What are the signs of a stroke?
The symptoms of stroke can vary from person to person but they usually begin suddenly. There are key warning signs that could signal that someone has had a stroke:
How might stem cells help?
Stem cells have the ability to form different specialised cell types and to renew themselves to form further new stem cells. There is currently a great deal of medical research looking at the potential for stem cells to repair damaged tissue and fight disease. This is based on the idea that stem cells could be used to produce appropriate cells to repair or replace the damaged tissue. Stem cells are obviously an important factor in aiding rehabilitation.
The world’s first clinical trial of brain stem cells to treat stroke study (Pilot Investigation of Stem Cells in Stroke) is being performed by the University of Glasgow in collaboration with a company called ReNeuron.