When I wrote the first stem cell research post (http://stroketales.blogspot.com/2013/03/stem-cells-embryonic-and-otherwise-aka.html), I was skeptical. The Big Maybe Not, I said. But I am less so now. Most of the scamsters and shysters who claimed to have stem cells have been arrested or are purposely missing. There’s something afoot and it means possible
dis-ability for so many of us who are brain injured.
The most recent news came in June of this year from the 15th annual International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) meeting in Boston. The group included more than 4,000 stem cell scientists, bioethicists, clinicians, and industry professionals from over 50 countries who discussed the latest discoveries and technologies within the field, and how they are advancing regenerative medicine, including stem cells and cancer, disease modeling and organogenesis, gene editing and gene therapy, and potential breakthrough therapies currently being tested in clinical trials.
Said ISSCR president Sally Temple, “Discoveries are moving forward quickly, with developments that are changing the way we view and treat disease. That has tremendous implications, not only for scientists, but also for regulatory bodies, industry, and patients.”
In addition, prior to the meeting on June 13, a Public Symposium organized by the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), was held as well in Boston. It was advertised as “Innovation, Incubation, Investment: The Landscape of Stem Cell Research in Boston,” and featured local leaders in the stem cell community.
Then about one year ago, Sonia Coontz, who had a stroke in 2011, recovered her right side in a Stanford clinical study in 2016. Injecting human, adult stem cells directly into her brain, along with other chronic stroke patients, proved not only safe but effective in restoring motor function.
Now 36, Coontz, said, “My right arm wasn’t working at all. It felt like it was almost dead. My right leg worked, but not well. I used a wheelchair a lot.”
After her surgery, “they woke up,” she said of her limbs. The promising results set the stage for an expanded trial of the procedure now getting underway. Dr. Gary Steinberg, who has more than 15 years’ worth of experience in work with stem cell therapies for neurological indications, is the research paper’s lead and senior author.
“This was just a single trial, and a small one,” cautioned Steinberg, who led the 18-patient trial.
“It was designed primarily to test the procedure’s safety. But patients improved by several standard measures, and their improvement was not only statistically significant, but clinically meaningful. Their ability to move around has recovered visibly. That’s unprecedented. At six months out from a stroke, you don’t expect to see any further recovery,” said Steinberg.
There’s more. A recent study involved donor stem cells grown in the lab and delivered through an IV to stroke patients. Dr. Ken Uchino, a stroke neurologist at The Cleveland Clinic, said, “The stem cells are believed to change the immune response of the body to the stroke. And it will turn down the immune response so there is a better healing environment.”
The study involved 129 patients, half of whom got the stem cells, and half the placebo. The study discovered the patients who got the cells within 36 hours of stroke onset had less disability and more mobility after stroke.
The Big Maybe Not has turned into The Big Maybe So.