Stroke is one of the leading causes of death in developed countries. It mostly affects older people, with the risk of having a stroke doubling each 10 years for people over the age of 55.
54-year-old American Robert Kruppa recently suffered from a stroke after a blood clot in his leg reached his brain. He describes the onset of his stroke as being very sudden and unexpected, saying: “I got up, the left leg gave out, and I landed on the floor and couldn't get up."
Robert was sent to Tampa General Hospital, where they removed the clot. Unfortunately, the damage had already been done and Robert struggled to move his left arm and leg. He faced many months of physical therapy to regain full movement.
While doctors have advanced tools for treating strokes as they are happening, once a patient has received brain damage from a stroke, it is very difficult to treat.
That may be about to change with researchers using stem cells to treat the damage caused by a stroke. The treatment was initially tested by researchers at Stanford University in 2016.
The procedure involves making a small incision in the patient’s scalp and transplanting stem cells close to the site of a stroke injury. It is the first time scientists have tried using stem cells this way. The initial research project showed some positive results, which prompted the announcement of a new clinical trial set to take place this year.
The stem cells are taken from the bone marrow of healthy volunteers. Once transplanted, the cells begin repairing nerve cells in the brain. Using stem cells in this way is quite ingenious and quite a breakthrough. If this new stem cell trial is successful it may potentially help thousands of stroke sufferers each year.