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Stem Cells Can Restore Motor Function in Stroke Patients

Experimental procedure helps restore movement even a year after stroke

FRIDAY, June 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Injecting modified, human, adult stem cells directly into the brain is a safe and effective way to restore motor function in stroke patients long after their stroke occurred, according to a study published online June 2 in Stroke.

The research team selected patients who had severe, but not extreme, motor impairment from a stroke. Most had experienced their stroke at least one year prior to the study launch. Their average age was 61. The experimental stem cell procedure began with doctors drilling a small hole through the skull. Patients had minimal anesthesia. In turn, neurosurgeons injected modified stem cells directly into multiple areas of the brain near the site of each patient’s stroke.

The result: with no apparent blood abnormalities or significant side effects, all of the patients experienced significant motor control recovery within the first month. Younger patients tended to fare better, the investigators found. Mobility continued to improve throughout the first three months. Gains were maintained at both the six-month and one-year follow-up.

“We think these cells turn the adult brain into a neonatal or infant brain. And infants recover very well after a stroke, because their brains have greater plasticity and the ability to form new connections between cells already in the brain,” lead author Gary Steinberg, M.D., Ph.D., chair of neurosurgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif., told HealthDay. “Somehow putting these stem cells directly into the brain jump starts circuits we had thought were irreversibly damaged or dead, with remarkable results.”

The stem cells were provided by SanBio, which funded and helped design the study.

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