Fabrisia Ambrosio, PhD, of the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine – along with several colleagues from Pitt’s departments of bioengineering, neuroscience, and radiology – published a study titled, "Physical therapy exerts sub-additive and suppressive effects on intracerebral neural stem cell implantation in a rat model of stroke" in late 2021.
Intracerebral cell therapy (CT) is emerging as a new therapeutic paradigm for stroke. However, the impact of physical therapy (PT) on implanted cells and their ability to promote recovery remains poorly understood.
To address this translational issue, the research team implanted a clinical-grade neural stem cell (NSC) into peri-infarct tissue using MRI-defined injection sites, two weeks after stroke. They then administered PT in the form of aerobic exercise (AE) five times per week post-implantation using a paradigm commonly applied in patients with stroke.
The team found that a combined AE and CT exerted sub-additive therapeutic effects on sensory neglect, whereas AE suppressed CT effects on motor integration and grip strength. Behavioral testing emerged as a potentially major component for task integration. It is expected that this study will guide and inform the incorporation of PT in the design of clinical trials evaluating intraparenchymal NSCs implantation for stroke.