It can happen in an instant. A stroke can leave a person debilitated and dependent on others. While some clinical trials are focusing on extending the treatment window, the time patients can receive life-saving drugs, researchers are now also using stem cells to repair the damage to patients’ brains.
Julian Fowles was a busy entertainment lawyer who loved to dance.
“My wife just loves to salsa.” said Fowles.
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But the music stopped when Fowles had a stroke about five years ago.
“I lost use of my legs and left arm, my face fell.” said Fowles.
Experts say the effects of a stroke can be reversed if the patient gets to the hospital within a 24 hour window. Julian didn’t seek help till the next day.
“Speech can be slurred or lost, eyesight can be affected,” said Doctor Dileep Yavagal, Director of Interventional Neurology at the University of Miami.
Now there’s new hope: using stem cells.
“These are the building blocks of our bodies,” said Doctor Yavagal.
Researchers at the University of Miami are conducting a clinical trial, injecting stem cells from healthy donors into the damaged areas of patients’ brains.
“We can actually get the brain to start to heal, regenerate neurons, and for the first time produce improvement in these patient’s symptomsm,” said Doctor Jonathan Jagid from the Department of Neurological Surgery at the University of Miami Health System.
The minimally invasive procedure is done through a one- inch incision in the skull.
“With the idea that the cells will stimulate repair of the stroke area,” said Doctor Yavagal.
And strengthen weak limbs. Fowles had the procedure last July. Because it’s a double blind study, he doesn’t know whether he got the stem cells or not.
“I’m looking forward to some change,” said Fowles.
He is feeling stronger every day, rowing as part of his rehab. He’s hoping the stem cells are helping him and someday others recovering from stroke.
It’s called the ACTISsIMA trial. Patients should be between the ages of 18 and 85 and suffered a stroke in the previous six months to seven and a half years. There are 60 clinical sites across the country.