Inflammation is a major factor in the progression of damage after stroke and in the clinic, current therapies treat the clot, not the resulting damage. We have developed a novel method of protein delivery that exploits the migration ability of leukocytes after ischemic stroke (transient middle cerebral artery occlusion; tMCAO). In our studies, ex vivo-derived dendritic cells (exDCs) migrate to the inflamed rat brain soon after tMCAO onset and the number of cells that remain in the brain after injection is significantly correlated with the amount of local inflammation at the injury site. In addition, exDCs transduced to overexpress soluble tumor necrosis factor (TNF) receptor1 (sTNFR1) produce functional cargo that is secreted and that blocks TNF-α bioavailability in vitro. When delivered at 6 hours post-tMCAO reperfusion, sTNFR1-exDC-treated rats show significantly smaller infarct size and decreased inflammation compared with animals treated with exDCs transduced with GFP lentivirus. These studies indicate that cell-mediated delivery of proteins may be a promising new approach to reduce brain damage after acute neurologic insult.