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Delivering a new cell free therapy to improve stroke outcomes

Dr Brad Broughton, Institution: Monash University

2020 Vanguard Grant

Years funded: 2021-2022


Stroke is the world’s second leading cause of mortality, accounting for 11% of all deaths each year. 

There are 2 types of stroke:
  1. ischaemic stroke, which is caused by an occlusion (ie. a clot) of a brain artery and
  2. haemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a brain artery ruptures and bleeds.

Unacceptably, there are very few drugs or surgical treatment options for patients that suffer either type of stroke. Whilst these treatments can restore blood flow or stop the bleeding, none can reverse injured or dying brain cells and they can only be given/performed in a hospital.   Hence, we desperately need new treatment options that can be given immediately to all stroke patients to repair and regenerate brain cells.

Nano-sized packages released by stem cells called exosomes contain signalling molecules that can initiate repair and regeneration, have anti-inflammatory properties, and possess fewer limitations than their parent cell. Thus, exosomes offer great therapeutic hope for stroke patients.  We now have strong preliminary data that shows exosomes from placental stem cells given intravenously after stroke can improve outcomes in mice.  Therefore, this project will test whether these exosomes can reduce brain damage and functional impairment after ischaemic and haemorrhagic stroke.

This project will provide important new insight into the neuroprotective properties of placental stem cell-derived exosomes administered post-stroke. We predict that these exosomes will profoundly reduce brain damage as well as improve functional outcomes following stroke. It should demonstrate that exosomes migrate to the injured brain region and provide neuroprotection via decreasing brain inflammation, as well as triggering repair/regenerative pathways. Collectively, the findings should establish exosomes as a viable and effective therapy for all stroke patients.

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