Stem Cell Research Shows Promise for Stroke Patients

stem cellCell research is a rapidly advancing science in medical exploration. Recent studies researching the effects of stem cells in stroke patients shows promising progress in repairing brain damage.

In a study involving 18 patients all who suffered a stroke, participants had bone marrow stem cells injected into their brain near the affected tissue from the stroke. Of the 18 patients, all showed some improvement with their weakness or paralysis within six months. Two of the patients performed near immediate recovery regaining speaking and motor abilities the day after the procedure. Doctors were amazed by the miraculous recovery as the two women, ages 71 and 33, had suffered their strokes over two years before the procedure – a point when experts expected no further improvement.

A stroke occurs when a blood clot or excessive bleeding obstructs blood flow to the brain. When the brain loses blood it is deprived of oxygen and cells begin to die. Stroke is the third largest cause of death and the leading cause of adult disability in developed nations. The cost of long-term care of stroke victims is estimated at $70 billion in the US.

Neuralstem has begun a new stem cell research study in a two-year clinical experiment on Ischemic stroke patients with promising research. The study will inject NSI-566 spinal cord stem cells directly into the stroke lesion to regenerate injured tissue and recapacitate motor skills.

In animal trials, Neuralstem cells were shown to be save and well tolerated by the host demonstrating, “significant therapeutic value including recovery of motor and neurological functions.”

Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cells found in the body. Embryonic cells can develop into virtually anything including brain cells giving doctors hope that it can treat injured brain tissue. Adult or somatic cells, sometimes taken from the skin, are slightly more limited as to what they can develop into, but still promising in research treating nervous disorders like Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and spinal injuries. Embryonic cells are hoped to be able to repair brain tissue and treat things like Parkinson’s disease and severe brain trauma.

PISCES, a stem cell research program in Scotland started in 2010, is nearing the end of Phase one of its research into stem cells effects on stroke victims. Of the six patients in the program, five have shown improvement in completing everyday tasks, but researchers say it is too early to tell if the improvement is from the treatment.

Phase one of the PISCES trials is simply to check the safety of the stem cells and make sure they are tolerated in the host, but early results are promising. The embryonic stem cells used in the trial come from a 12-week fetus.

Phase two is expected to begin by the end of the year. It will include 20 stroke victims and test the functional improvement of the patients.

Stem cell research has caused quite a controversy since its conception. Unexpected consequences of stem cells can include a weakened immune system and cells growing out of control forming tumors. As with any new medical research, procedures must be taken slow and safely, but the progress made for stroke patients with stem cell research is very promising.

By Cody Long


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