Stem cells may successfully treat stroke symptoms

    Suffering from a stroke is one of the most debilitating medical conditions.  However, doctors at Houston Methodist believe they may have found one of the first treatments ever to prevent major disabilities, caused by a stroke.  It involves using a donor's stem cells.  We met up with a patient who believes he sure benefitted from it.  Arthur Milstein is almost 88 years old.  He's a businessman, and only a year ago, he was running his own store and feeling great.  He worked late one night, went out to dinner with his wife.  "All of a sudden, I went blank.  I don't remember this - my wife tells me.  She told me to raise my arm, I couldn't.  I couldn't stick out my tongue.  She knew there was something going on, so she asked for the check and called 911," describes Arthur. 
    Paramedics rushed him to Houston Methodist.  Dr. David Chiu is the Medical Director of the Stroke Center at Methodist and describes his condition.  "Mr. Milstein had a stroke, a moderately severe stroke.  Many patients with that kind of stroke end up with long-term disability - impairment of speech, language, motor function, ability to function for their self.  A stroke results in sudden information of blood flow in part of the brain. There are two common types.  The most common type is ischemic stroke, and that's usually caused by a blood clot or occlusion or blockage of one of the arteries in the brain and then the other hemorrhagic stroke.  It accounts for 10-15% of all strokes that results from bleeding in the brain," says Dr. Chiu. 
    Arthur says his wife is his hero for recognizing the signs of a stroke.  Dr.Chiu agrees, saying quick treatment is "a must" to prevent major problems.  Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death and for those who survive, disabilities often change their lives forever. Dr. Chiu urges you to know the signs.  "The cardinal ones are sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, sudden numbness on one side, sudden loss of speech or loss of vision on one side," he explains. 
    He says if you, or someone you love, have those symptoms, immediately call 911 and seek treatment. Arthur couldn't speak for himself after his stroke, so his wife agreed to a study that could give Arthur stem cells, to see if they would stop or help reverse the damage.  He was given almost two billion stem cells, from a donor, through an I.V.  He believes the treatment worked and positively and dramatically changed his outcome.  " I was scared to death - after the first 24 hours, I was very sorry for my condition of course, but I started to feel that I'm over the hump," says Arthur.
    Dr. Chiu says so far, studies appear to show that patients who received stem cells did recover faster and had less inflammation in the brain.  "One of the greatest challenges of medicine is to foster to recover from a stroke.  We haven't been able to solve this for centuries, so this would be a tremendous breakthrough and step forward in neurology and medicine," he says.   "I'm glad I'm here, and as far as treatment, wish it would become standard - I'm a firm, firm believer in it," exclaims Arthur. 
    Dr. Chiu wrapped up our conversation by saying that more studies are underway, and we'll have to wait about two years before we find out if stem cells will become standard treatment to treat strokes. The stem cells used for this treatment are called Athersys MultiStem.
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