Stem cells extend stroke treatment window

Nearly 800,000 people have strokes every year in America. The best treatment, tPA (tissue plasminogen activator), has to be given within three hours, and doctors estimate only five percent of patients can make that window. A new treatment that is now in clinical trial could give patients precious additional time.

Sharon Thomas is back at work like nothing was ever wrong. But four years ago, she had a stroke.

“At that time, I couldn’t read, write, swallow or speak,” Thomas told Ivanhoe.

She was helicoptered to OHSU and the care of Wayne Clark, MD, Director, Oregon Stroke Center, Oregon Health & Science University. He asked if she wanted to be part of a trial for a stem cell treatment that might help her recover. (Read Full Interview)

“What this does, the stem cells are from very, very young cells, and they bathe the brain in this environment that makes it act like it’s young again,” explained Dr. Clark.

The stem cells also turn off the inflammatory response sent by the spleen to the brain. The bone marrow-derived stem cells come from a donor and are multiplied in a lab.

Doctor Clark continued, “It can be easily stored in a refrigerator, and mixed up quickly, and given by IV. So no specialized facilities will have to be … and a 36 hour window, so it could really allow a lot of patients to potentially benefit.”

Sharon made a significant recovery, like 70 percent of patients in the multistem trial. She credits it with giving her an edge.

Thomas said, “Every day it got better, and my mantra was, ‘every day is a good day,’ because I’m still here, I’m still improving.”

And she hopes more stroke patients have access to MultiStem.

Dr. Clark says it is also extremely important people are aware of the warning signs of stroke such as slurred speech or one side of the body feeling weak, paralyzed, or very numb. If you have these symptoms, do not hesitate to seek immediate medical care.