UTHouston reports on the beginning a phase 1 study using bone marrow harvested adult stem cells in the treatment of stroke:
[Dr.] Savitz said animal studies have shown that the healing effects of stem cells can occur as early as a week but cautioned it is too early to attribute Henrich’s improvement to the stem cell treatment. “I’m hoping he will get better and it will be because of the cells, but it’s just hope at this point,” Savitz said.
The stem cells were harvested from the bone marrow in the iliac crest of his leg, then separated and returned to Henrich several hours later. Because they are his own stem cells, rejection is not expected to be an issue.
When he arrived at the hospital, Henrich could not speak and had significant weakness on his right side. When he was released after nearly two weeks of hospitalization and rehabilitation, he was able to walk and climb stairs unassisted and said his first words.
The problem with strokes is that we don’t have any way of determining the damage until the damage is done. We do have a treatment for blood clots – if you can get to it within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms (slurred speech, sudden onset of one-sided numbness or weakness or loss of consciousness).
However, if more than 3 hours has passed and there are no symptoms, we pretty much have to wait and see. Wait and see how much of the brain dies due to the blood clot, and how much damage is done over all. Some of the damage is probably due to the body’s own inflammatory process: what we would expect would cause healing may cause more cell death and scarring.
All of this damage interferes with the normal working of the cells.If the cells aren’t vital or if the body has back ups for those cells, then the brain may be stunned and function may return to some extent in days, weeks or months. In other cases, the damage is not only permanent, but may increase over months.
This new experiment may use the body’s healing processes to efficiently repair damage – or it may not. So, the people who are receiving the treatment are the ones for which our only treatment would be “watch and wait.”
Note that these are not embryonic stem cells that are derived by destroying a human embryo.