We previously evaluated the short-term follow-up preliminary data of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) transplantation in patients with ischemic stroke. The present study was conducted to evaluate the long-term safety and efficacy of i.v. MSCs transplantation in a larger population. To accomplish this, we performed an open-label, observer-blinded clinical trial of 85 patients with severe middle cerebral artery territory infarct. Patients were randomly allocated to one of two groups, those who received i.v. autologous ex vivo cultured MSCs (MSC group) or those who did not (control group), and followed for up to 5 years. Mortality of any cause, long-term side effects, and new-onset comorbidities were monitored. Of the 52 patients who were finally included in this study, 16 were the MSC group and 36 were the control group. Four (25%) patients in the MSC group and 21 (58.3%) in the control group died during the follow-up period, and the cumulative surviving portion at 260 weeks was 0.72 in the MSC group and 0.34 in the control group (log-rank; p = .058). Significant side effects were not observed following MSC treatment. The occurrence of comorbidities including seizures and recurrent vascular episodes did not differ between groups. When compared with the control group, the follow-up modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score was decreased, whereas the number of patients with a mRS of 0-3 increased in the MSC group (p = .046). Clinical improvement in the MSC group was associated with serum levels of stromal cell-derived factor-1 and the degree of involvement of the subventricular region of the lateral ventricle. Intravenous autologous MSCs transplantation was safe for stroke patients during long-term follow-up. This therapy may improve recovery after stroke depending on the specific characteristics of the patients.
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