Stroke Fact Sheet

CIRM funds many projects seeking to better understand stroke and to translate those discoveries into new therapies.


In the U.S., almost 800,000 people have a stroke each year and more than 140,000 people die of their stroke. It is the leading cause of serious, long-term disability in the U.S.

Stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks a vessel in the brain and cuts off blood flow. Brain cells begin to die within minutes when they are deprived of oxygen and nutrients. A less common kind of stroke involves a burst blood vessel that bleeds into the brain, also killing brain cells. Losing these brain cells can cause permanent problems with movement and cognitive abilities such as memory, attention span even speaking or understanding speech.

A stroke requires immediate treatment. Signs of stroke include sudden onset of numbness of the face, arm or leg, confusion, blurred vision, dizziness or headache. Doctors can intervene by dissolving the clot and restoring blood flow or stopping the bleeding.

After a stroke, intensive physical therapy can help people regain some lost function. However, there is currently no therapy to restore the brain cells that have died as a result of the stroke.

Stem cell scientists are attempting to use different types of stem cells including tissue-specific neural stem cells, embryonic stem cells and reprogrammed iPS cells to replace cells lost during a stroke. They are testing the different cell types in animal models of stroke to see which are best able to restore movement. They also need to learn the best way of delivering those cells into the brain. Around the country, several clinical trials are underway testing different type of cells and different delivery methods. Other researchers are seeing if it’s possible to activate the stem cells in the brain to repair the damage.

Disease Team

Stanford University

The Stanford University-led team plans to use cells generated from human embryonic stem cells to improve recovery in the weeks and months following a stroke. The team will first mature the embryonic stem cells into the kind of neural stem cells that make the cells that are normally found in the brain. The team has found that transplanting these neural stem cells into mice or rats after a stroke helps the animals regain strength in their limbs. The team is now trying to develop these neural stem cells into a therapy that they can test in human clinical trials.

CIRM Grants Targeting Stroke

Researcher name Institution Grant Title Approved funds
Stanley Carmichael University of California, Los Angeles Development of a Hydrogel Matrix for Stem Cell Growth and Neural Repair after Stroke $1,825,613
Brian Rutt Stanford University Development of Single Cell MRI Technology using Genetically-Encoded Iron-Based Reporters $1,833,348
Stuart Lipton Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute Programming Human ESC-derived Neural Stem Cells with MEF2C for Transplantation in Stroke $1,020,815
Gary Steinberg Stanford University Paracrine and synaptic mechanisms underlying neural stem cell-mediated stroke recovery $1,178,370
Stuart Lipton The Scintillon Institute Programming Human ESC-derived Neural Stem Cells with MEF2C for Transplantation in Stroke $1,103,185
Gary Steinberg Stanford University Embryonic-Derived Neural Stem Cells for Treatment of Motor Sequelae following Sub-cortical Stroke $17,244,851
Ziwei Huang Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute New Chemokine-Derived Therapeutics Targeting Stem Cell Migration $708,000
Yadong Huang Gladstone Institutes Defining the Isoform-Specific Effects of Apolipoprotein E on the Development of iPS Cells into Functional Neurons in Vitro and in Vivo $2,757,303
Stuart Lipton Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute MEF2C-Directed Neurogenesis From Human Embryonic Stem Cells $2,832,000
Samuel Pleasure University of California, San Francisco Human stem cell derived oligodendrocytes for treatment of stroke and MS $2,459,235
Guoping Fan University of California, Los Angeles Epigenetic gene regulation during the differentiation of human embryonic stem cells: Impact on neural repair $2,412,995

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