First-Ever Procedure Uses Patient’s Own Adult Stem Cells to Treat Stroke Effects

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Apr 1, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

First-Ever Procedure Uses Patient’s Own Adult Stem Cells to Treat Stroke Effects

by Steven Ertelt Editor
April 1
, 2009

Houston, TX ( — In what is believed to be the nation’s first such procedure, doctors in Texas were able to successfully use adult stem cells from a patient to treat the effects of his stroke. Physicians from Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and the University of Texas Medical School at Houston were involved in the process.

The patient arrived in the emergency room at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center on Wednesday of last week with weakness on the right side and difficulty speaking.

The signs were obvious; the patient was suffering a stroke. Because he had exceeded the three-hour window needed to receive the TPA clot-busting drug proven to treat strokes, the stem-cell trial treatment was the only option.

Fortunately, the medical center and UT are conducting the Phase I study funded with a pilot grant from the National Institutes of Health and stem cell therapy can help patients 24 to 72 hours after the onset of a stroke.

Doctors completed the minimally-invasive procedure on Thursday where they removed the stem cells from the patient’s bone marrow in the leg, then separated or purified the stem cells and intravenously returned them to the patient within a few hours.

Because they are the patient’s own stem cells, rejection was not an issue as is the case with embryonic stem cells.

"Research shows that stem cells have an instinctive guidance system and migrate to the area of injury. While the stem cells do not produce new brain cells for this patient, they enhance the repair process in the brain and reduce damage," the doctors said in a press statement.

"This breakthrough has the potential to drastically change the way stroke patients are treated in the future," they added.

Dr. David Prentice, a former biology professor at Indiana State University who is now a fellow with the Family Research Council, talked with about the procedure.

"It is still early in this clinical trial, but the initial success is very promising," he said. "This trial to treat stroke builds on another study underway since 2006 at UT Medical School-Houston involving acute brain-injured children using their own stem cells, as well as studies in Germany and previously in the U.S."

Prentice says the results show adult stem cells are not only more ethical than embryonic cells but outpace them in terms of the ability to treat patients.

"Adult stem cells continue to prove their worth at treating patients for dozens of diseases and conditions," he said.

"The real science, as well as the real hope for patients, lies not with embryonic stem cells but rather with adult stem cells. If our government really cared about the patients first, more resources should be directed toward clinical trials with adult stem cells," Prentice continued.

The patient is recovering remarkably well and has not shown any signs of paralysis. He remains in the hospital under observation, but will be discharged later this week.

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