HOUSTON - In the hours following a stroke, the best treatment has been tissue plasminogen activator, but it has to be given within three hours, and doctors estimate only 5 percent of patients can make that window.
A new treatment that is now in clinical trial could give patients precious additional time.
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 said.
She was flown by helicopter to a hospital where Dr. Wayne Clark, a neurologist, began her care. 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 said of the treatment.
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 (used) -- and a 36-hour window, so it could really allow a lot of patients to potentially benefit,” Clark said.
Thomas made a significant recovery, similar to 70 percent of patients in the 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.
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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