One of the sad effects of a stroke or a traumatic brain injury is that those who suffer them are all too often permanently impaired. While physical rehabilitation can have some benefit, a person with a brain injury due to a stroke or physical trauma often has their quality of life circumscribed.
However, a preliminary trial that recently took place at Stanford University suggests that a treatment could be developed that can reverse the effects of brain trauma. 19 people, ranging from 33 to 70, were injected with stem cells directly into their brains. The cells, called SB623 cells, were extracted from the patients’ bone marrow and modified for the treatment. Nearly half demonstrated what was termed “clinically meaningful” improvements in their lifestyles. That is putting things mildly.
One participant in the trial, having been confined to a wheelchair, has now been able to take up jogging. Another patient, previously almost entirely paralyzed, is now able to walk.
Unlike previous stem cell treatments, administered hours after a stroke, the Stanford trial involved patients who had been disabled by strokes as long as three years before.
The results are preliminary, and it will be years before the biotechnology industry will be prepared to roll it out in a clinical setting. However, the people who could potentially benefit from the treatment number in the millions.
The next step will be a randomized, double-blind trial involving 156 stroke patients. That particular trial will allow researchers to better understand the efficacy of the treatment and, hopefully, refine it to improve its outcomes.
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