Health Beat

Health Beat: Stem cells extend stroke treatment window

PORTLAND, Ore. - 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 recalled.

She was helicoptered to Oregon Health & Science University and the care of Dr. Wayne Clark, the director of the Oregon Stroke Center. 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," Clark explained.

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 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," Clark continued.

Thomas made a significant recovery, like 70 percent of patients in the multistem 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," Thomas said.

And she hopes more stroke patients have access to multistem.

Clark said 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 a few months at locations to be announced.


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