Stroke remains a major cause of death and disability in the United States and around the world. Solid safety and efficacy profiles of novel stroke therapeutics have been generated in the laboratory, but most failed in clinical trials. Investigations into the pathology and treatment of the disease remain a key research endeavor in advancing scientific understanding and clinical applications. In particular, cell-based regenerative medicine, specifically stem cell transplantation, may hold promise as a stroke therapy, because grafted cells and their components may recapitulate the growth and function of the neurovascular unit, which arguably represents the alpha and omega of stroke brain pathology and recovery. Recent evidence has implicated mitochondria, organelles with a central role in energy metabolism and stress response, in stroke progression. Recognizing that stem cells offer a source of healthy mitochondria—one that is potentially transferrable into ischemic cells—may provide a new therapeutic tool. To this end, deciphering cellular and molecular processes underlying dysfunctional mitochondria may reveal innovative strategies for stroke therapy. Here, we review recent studies capturing the intimate participation of mitochondrial impairment in stroke pathology, and showcase promising methods of healthy mitochondria transfer into ischemic cells to critically evaluate the potential of mitochondria-based stem cell therapy for stroke patients.
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