TINY scaffolds covered in stem cells have been proven to repair damage to the brain caused by strokes, researchers said yesterday.
The breakthrough means victims could in future receive stem cells shortly after suffering a stroke, thus reducing disability.
So far, the treatment has only been used in rats, but scientists hope to develop it for human patients.
The work was first discussed at the UK National Stem Cell Network conference in Edinburgh last year.
Scientists funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have now found that inserting tiny scaffolding with stem cells attached into the brain made it possible to fill a hole left by stroke damage.
Dr Mike Modo, of King's College London, said: "We would expect to see a much better improvement in the outcome after a stroke if we can fully replace the lost brain tissue, and that is what we have been able to do with our technique."
The scientists used individual particles of a biodegradable polymer called PLGA which were loaded with neural stem cells.
The cells came from a stem cell line originally derived from a mouse embryo.
Dr Modo said: "This works really well because the stem-cell-loaded PLGA particles can be injected through a very fine needle and then adopt the precise shape of the cavity.
"In this process the cells fill the cavity and can make connections with other cells, which helps to establish the tissue.
"Over a few days we can see cells migrating along the scaffold particles and forming a primitive brain tissue that interacts with the host brain.
"Gradually the particles biodegrade leaving more gaps and conduits for tissue, fibres and blood vessels to move into."
The research, published in the journal Biomaterials, used an MRI scanner to pinpoint the right place to inject the scaffold-cell structure.