The team at Spain's CEU ECH which reported positive results from combining cellular and drug therapies in treating brain damage. CEU ECH

Researchers have been able to trigger blood vessel formation in damaged areas of the brain by transplanting bone marrow stem cells along with drug therapy.

The scientists at CEU Cardenal Herrera University (CEU-UCH) combined the transplantation of bone marrow stem cells into the brain with the administration of the antioxidant lipoic acid to obtain positive results in adult laboratory mice.

The process of blood vessel formation called angiogenesis is essential for the recovery of damaged neural tissues.

Lipoic acid is already used in the treatment of degenerative neuro diseases such as multiple sclerosis or diabetic neuropathy.

The team made use of earlier studies showing the acid's ability to increase the creation of blood vessels to speed up cerebral immune response after an injury. Functional improvements from stem cells had been reported in some cases.

The team combined both therapies in adult lab mice with damaged brain tissues.

"Although bone marrow stem cells disappear from the brain tissue where they were transplanted after only 16 days, new cells keep forming. To put it another way, brain tissue is regenerated by new cells that appear in the brain as a result of stem cell transplantation. This proves the regenerative efficiency of the new combined therapy," says José Miguel Soria López, deputy director of the Institute of Biomedical Sciences at CEU-UCH.

The research also showed blood vessels that formed after the treatment growing into the damaged area of the brain.

Research in stem cells is a fast advancing field today.

While bone marrow stem cells have been harvested for many experimental therapies, including forming blood vessels in damaged limbs and eye, teams have also looked at ways to make it easier.

However, these are still early days with conflicting results coming from various studies.

Stem cells are the body's growth and maintenance units that differentiate into the various cell types to build organs. At later stages, they are used by the body to replace damaged tissues.