New treatment option for stroke patients

HOUSTON There are few treatments for stroke, and it's often difficult to get to an ER quickly enough for effective help. But there's a study underway in which patients receive their own stem cells for stroke.

Albert Schwam isn't good at combing his wife's hair. He never had to, until Barbara had a stroke. Barbara is still paralyzed on the left side, even after getting the clot buster drug TPA. But she's about to get stem cells for her stroke.

"I never thought it would be possible," she said.

It wasn't possible until now. In a new UT-Houston study, scientists took stem cells from Barbara's bone marrow, treated it and returned just the stem cells in an IV bag.

"What our lab and other labs are finding is that area injured by the infarct may actually get saved or preserved by these cells," said Dr. Sean Savitz with UT-Houston.

"It gives us hope that she'll recover," said Albert Schwam. "That's all we're looking for."

Barbara is the eighth patient in the stroke study. The stem cells must be given within 72 hours after the stroke.

"The idea is these cells are going to migrate through your body. Some we think will end up going into the area where you had a stroke," said Dr. Savitz. "They might help to reduce some of the damage that's occurring in the brain."

Bud Martin was the first patient. He had a stroke a year ago and received his own stem cells.

"He's no longer weak on the side where he was paralyzed and his speaking has also improved a lot," said Dr. Savitz.

MRI scans document any improvement, which they don't expect to begin until weeks later.

It took about 15 minutes for the stem cell infusion and Barbara says she's felt no ill effects at all.

To find out if this study could help your loved one, you can call UT Houston at 713-500-5030 or check theUT-Houston stroke web page. You can also ask your doctor to contact Memorial Hermann in the Medical Center. Remember, timing is critical. The stem cells must be given within 72 hours.

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