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FAQ and Important Points
- Not all cell therapies are stem cells.
It’s important to point out that stem cells are by definition cells that proliferate and become various types of more mature cells. Neural stem cells, for example, can become neurons and other types of brain cells. In the types of cells that we are testing, the bone marrow we are extracting from patients and giving back to them contain stem cells but also other types of more mature cells. Some of the allogeneic cells that we are testing in patients are purified from other tissues such as umbilical cord and are not necessarily stem cells but have been found in animal models of stroke to promote recovery. We are therefore using the term cell therapy rather than stem cell therapy to better convey this type of research.
- How do cell therapies work?
We and others are actively working to understand how cells may enhance recovery from stroke. For the types of cells that we are testing in patients, we do not believe that these cells are becoming new brain cells. Studies to date indicate that cells release molecules such as cytokines and growth factors that stimulate the brain’s ability to repair damage after a stroke or other injury. The brain has its own natural repair responses that we believe get a boost when cells are administered. There is also evidence that cells reduce on-going inflammation that occurs in the areas around the brain damage after a stroke. Cells may reduce inflammation as a way to help the recovery process. See figure on the front page of this website.
- Is Cell Therapy an actual “Therapy?”
No. We emphasize that the term cell therapy describes the field of testing cells as a possible new therapeutic approach for stroke. However, none of these approaches using cells have been proven yet to enhance recovery. This is why we need rigorously designed clinical trials to test these novel approaches to determine if they could be effective treatments for stroke in the future.
- What is the difference between allogeneic and autologous cells?
Autologous means that we are testing cells taken from the patient. We are taking cells from the bone marrow of patients, separating the cells that we believe could be therapeutic, and giving them back to the patients. Allogeneic cells are taken from another source. This could be the bone marrow of another person, umbilical cord, placenta, or other tissues.