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New stem cell trial study could redefine stroke treatment

July 6, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
A month ago, a 39-year-old single mother from Hawthorne suffered a severe stroke that left her unable to walk.

Paramedics took her to a designated hospital stroke center. To preserve her brain function, doctors treated her with clot-busting drugs and asked her if she would be the first to participate in a clinical trial involving stem cells.

Dr. George Rappard of the Los Angeles Brain & Spine Institute at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center is the principal investigator. The stem cells were separated out and treated, which appears to have increased the cell's ability to fill in where the body needs it. One to two million cells were then injected through a catheter that runs from the groin to the brain. Sixty percent of participants would receive the stem cells, while 40 percent of participants got a placebo.

"We are hopeful that by injecting stem cells into the brain we can actually cause regeneration of brain tissue," Rappard said. "We think that the stem cells may be instructive cells, rather than going in and forming brain neurons they might tell the brain how to heal itself."

Patients will see some improvement with therapy stroke, but doctors say all patients will plateau. If this works, experts say it could redefine the way strokes are treated.

"This is really the only thing that can be done to actually make a stroke better after it happens, if it works," Rappard said. "That's why it's such a big deal, that's why we're so hopeful. It could really be a game changer."

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