Stanford stem cell experiment helps stroke patient walk

Researchers have found that injecting adult stems cells directly into the brain might give stroke patients a chance of recovery long after the stroke occurred.

"We don't want to oversell this," stressed study lead author Dr Gary Steinberg, chair of neurosurgery at Stanford University School of Medicine in Palo, Alto, California, HealthDay reported.

"This isn't the first stem cell trial for stroke, and we're in the early phase, with only 18 patients. But after injecting stem cells directly into the brain of chronic stroke patients, we were blown away," he said.

"These were patients had significant motor deficits for six months or more," said Steinberg.

"People who had a hard time moving their arm or leg, or walking. People for whom we have no real treatment. But after the injections we saw improvement in all 18 patients, as a group, within a month.

"Within days some were lifting their arms over their head. Lifting their legs off their bed. Walking, when they hadn't in months or years. The results were very exciting."

Stroke cases in the US number 800,000 every year, and there are roughly around 7 million stroke survivors in the country. According to the researchers, many of the survivors ended up facing a new reality, in which lost motor function was unlikely to return.

In the one-time therapy surgeons drilled a hole into the study participants' skulls and injected stem cells in several locations around the area damaged by the stroke.

The stem cells were harvested from the bone marrow of adult donors and while the procedure sounded dramatic, it was considered relatively simple as far as brain surgery goes.

The patients who were conscious the whole time went home the same day.