YOUR HEALTH: A stem cell treatment could help stroke victims recover quicker

PORTLAND, Oregon – 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."

Nearly 800,000 people have strokes every year in America.   The best treatment is called tPA but it has to be given within three hours and doctors say only 5% of patients can make it that long.

She was helicoptered to the hospital and into the care of Dr. Wayne Clark.  He asked if she wanted to be part of a trial for a stem cell treatment that might help her recover.

"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, director of the Oregon Stroke Center.

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.

"It can be easily stored in a refrigerator, and mixed up quickly, and given IV," said Dr. Clark.  "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% of patients in the multi-stem trial.  She credits it with giving her an edge.

"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 multi-stem.

Dr. Clark says the treatment has no negative side effects but might not be appropriate for cancer patients because it could make cancer cells grow faster.

A phase three trial involving about 300 patients across the country could begin in the first half of 2018 at locations to be announced.

TREATMENT:  To best determine the most appropriate treatment for a stroke, emergency teams need to evaluate the type of stroke a person is having and the areas of the brain affected by the stroke.  They also need to rule out other possible causes, such as a brain tumor or a drug reaction.  Several tests may be used to determine risk of stroke, including physical examination and/or blood tests, computerized tomography or CT scan, magnetic resonance imaging or MRI, carotid ultrasound, cerebral angiogram, or an echocardiogram.  To treat an ischemic stroke, doctors must quickly restore blood flow to the brain.  Emergency treatment with medications such as aspirin or intravenous injection of tissue plasminogen activator or TPA may be given.  Emergency procedures may involve medications to the brain, or mechanical clot removal.   (Source: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/stroke/diagnosis-treatment/drc-2035011)

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.