Stem cell therapy for stroke patients is a recent breakthrough in stroke recovery treatment.
In recent studies, stroke patients who were in wheelchairs were able to walk again thanks to stem cell therapy.
If you’re interested in this expensive yet cutting-edge treatment, read on!
We’ll explain what stem cell therapy is and how it can potentially help stroke patients recover.
You’ll also see what the studies say and where we agree – and disagree! – with them.
Let’s dig in.
What Is Stem Cell Therapy?
To understand how stem cell therapy can help stroke patients recover, you should know the basics of stem cells.
According to Medical News Today, “Stem cells are a class of undifferentiated cells that are able to differentiate into specialized cell types.”
This means that extracted stem cells can become any type of cell under the right conditions. So stem cells can become brain cells and aid in recovery after stroke. We’ll dig into more details on that in a bit.
There are 2 types of stem cells:
Embryonic stem cells are formed during the first 8 weeks of embryological development after an egg is fertilized.
Adult stem cells exist throughout the adult body and can be found inside different tissues, like the brain and bone marrow, among other places.
For stroke recovery, adult stem cells are used.
How Does Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke Patients Work?
During stem cell therapy, brain surgery is performed to transplant stem cells (harvested from the patients’ bone marrow) into the tissue surrounding the damaged areas of the brain.
Interestingly, these stem cells don’t turn into brain cells. To help explain this, here’s what Dr. Gary Steinberg, the lead researcher on the latest stem cell project (and the man who performed 12 out of the 18 surgeries in the study), says about this:
“…These [stem] cells don’t actually integrate into the brain long term and become neurons to reconstitute circuits.
What they do is to pump out very powerful growth factors, molecules and proteins that enhance native mechanisms of recovery, such as new synapses of neurons that are there, new blood vessels, and they have a very profound effect on modulating the immune system.
And in that way, what we believe they do is to turn the adult brain into a neonatal or infant brain, which has a lot of ability to recover after injury.”
So, stem cell therapy doesn’t necessarily plant new brain cells into your brain.
Rather, it helps turns your brain into a young, cell-regenerating machine.
What Do the Studies Say?
Dr. Steinberg’s clinical study was small. It only included 18 patients. But the results were phenomenal.
Overall, there was substantial motor improvement; and one patient, Sonia Coontz, described her limbs as “waking up” after being asleep for years after her stroke.
To put some numbers on the results, there was an 11.4-point improvement in motor-function of the Fugl-Meyer test, which is a scale used to measure patients’ movement deficits – and 11.4 points is a lot! To quote Steinberg again,
“This wasn’t just, ‘They couldn’t move their thumb, and now they can.’ Patients who were in wheelchairs are walking now.”
These are impressive results, and we are excited to see the future of stem cell therapy for stroke patients.
How Much Will Stem Cell Therapy for Stroke Patients Cost?
If you’re interested in stem cell therapy, see if there are any clinical trials in your area.
Clinical trials are not free. However, most clinical trials are federally or privately funded, so there is little to no cost to the patient.
As a point of comparison, current stem cell therapy for other areas in the body, like the knee, range from $3,000-$5,000 dollars.
Administering treatment for stroke requires brain surgery, a much costlier procedure, so you can expect stem cell therapy for stroke to be even more expensive.
For that reason, it’s best to keep an eye out for clinical trials that you may be a candidate for.
How to find clinical trials near you:
Go to the clinical trials web page and type in “stroke” under conditions, and type “stem cell” under other terms.
At time of writing, there are 5 recruiting clinical trials for stem cell therapy for stroke in the United States. When you do your search, we hope one is near you.
Where We Disagree with the Studies
Now that you understand what stem cell therapy is all about, we would like to talk about hope.
Because while we were blown away by these findings, one thing really disturbed us in the research:
In this article, the doctor said that “at six months out from a stroke, you don’t expect to see any further recovery.”
This is a very limiting belief that has no supporting clinical evidence. And in our opinion, it’s careless for someone with authority, like a doctor, to say something that would limits someone’s recovery.
Recovery is always possible! Research has shown that the brain is constantly changing throughout your entire life.
Stem Cells or Not: Always Have Hope for Recovery After Stroke
This means that as long as you put in the hard work, you can continue to recover from stroke no matter how long it’s been – even if it’s been decades! We’ve heard the success stories first-hand.
For example, one patient who used Flint Rehab’s MusicGlove hand therapy improved his hand function 24 years post-stroke! Another patient recovered from paralysis 7 years post-stroke by using FitMi home therapy.
Anything is possible.
So if you can’t afford stem cell therapy, or if there are no clinical trials open right now, don’t lose hope!
As long as you follow the formula for stroke recovery, you can pick your recovery back up where you left off – even if it’s been more than 6 months since your stroke.
Now let’s wrap up this article.
Summary: The Stem Cell Breakthrough for Stroke Recovery
Stem cell therapy looks like a promising procedure that can really help stroke patients recover after stroke.
It works by transplanting adult stem cells harvested from your bone marrow into the brain tissue surrounding the damaged areas.
The stems cells boost the brain’s ability to regenerate cells, which helps you bounce back from the damage from stroke.
No matter how long it’s been since your stroke, there’s hope that stem cell therapy can help.
And even if you can’t afford stem cell therapy, there’s still hope! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.