The fifth leading cause of death in Americans and a leading cause of long-term disability, stroke is a serious medical event in which the blood supply to the brain is diminished or blocked entirely. It can occur via:
- ischemic stroke, or a blood clot obstructing blood supply to the brain; or,
- hemorrhagic stroke, or a burst blood vessel which causes bleeding in the brain.
Without ample blood flow, the brain loses key nutrients, including oxygen, and nerve cells become damaged or die. Even when the blockage is remedied, lingering effects such as impaired speech, movement, and thought processing may occur.
Currently, quick intervention is the most important factor in treating stroke as effectively as possible. Health care providers can administer medications to disrupt the clot, so acting quickly can save lives and minimize long-term damage. Thereafter, therapeutic interventions are aimed at helping patients restore lost function, such as walking and talking. Sometimes, healthy portions of the brain may take over some of the roles for which the compromised portions were responsible. Yet, there has not been a way to replace lost brain cells.
Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke Patients
While repairing damaged brain cells proves to be a tremendous challenge, researchers are hopeful about the ability of stem cells to target these compromised neurons and either repair or replace them. This is due to the cells’ ability to self-renew and differentiate into virtually any specialized cell type, including brain cells. Early research performed via animal studies suggests that lab-grown neurons can integrate into the brains. Further studies showed that transplanted cells could survive and benefit stroke patients.
With that being said, testing is still ongoing. In the UK-based PISCES trial, stroke patients received stem cell injections without any adverse effects, and at least 25 other trials are ongoing. Moving forward, key questions will be answered, including the best source for stem cells to treat stroke patients, as well as the right protocols needed to secure optimal outcomes.
This post was written by Becky Palmer, a medical professional at Stemedix Inc. At Stemedix we provide access to Regenerative Medicine. Regenerative medicine has the natural potential to help improve symptoms sometimes lost from the progression of many conditions.