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Wheelchair-Bound Stroke Victim Walks Again After 'Unprecedented' Stem Cell Trial At Stanford (washingtonpost.com) 92

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Washington Post: Stanford researchers studying the effect of stem cells injected directly into the brains of stroke patients said Thursday that they were "stunned" by the extent to which the experimental treatment restored motor function in some of the patients. The results, published in the journal Stroke, could have implications for our understanding of an array of disorders including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury and Alzheimer's if confirmed in larger-scale testing. The work involved patients who had passed the critical six-month mark when recoveries generally plateau and there are rarely further improvements. Each participant in the study had suffered a stroke beneath the brain's outermost layer and had significant impairments in moving their arms and-or legs. The one-time therapy involved surgeons drilling a hole into the study participants' skulls and injecting stem cells in several locations around the area damaged by the stroke. These stem cells were harvested from the bone marrow of adult donors. They suffered minimal adverse effects such as temporary headaches, nausea and vomiting. "Their recovery was not just a minimal recovery like someone who couldn't move a thumb now being able to wiggle it. It was much more meaningful. One 71-year-old wheelchair-bound patient was walking again," said Steinberg, the study's lead author and chair of neurosurgery at Stanford who personally performed most of the surgeries. Steinberg said that the study does not support the idea that the injected stem cells become neurons, as has been previously thought. Instead, it suggests that they seem to trigger some kind of biochemical process that enhances the brain's ability to repair itself. "Patients improved by several standard measures, and their improvement was not only statistically significant, but clinically meaningful," Steinberg said. "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."
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Wheelchair-Bound Stroke Victim Walks Again After 'Unprecedented' Stem Cell Trial At Stanford

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    The breakfast of champions

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Well no. I know it's custom for us /. Ers to not read the article but it's stem cells harvested from bone marrow for breakfast :)

  • This could save not just suffering but money - round-the-clock care isn't cheap.
  • These were ADULT stem-cells. There is no need to say "See? Fetus stem cells work" *OR* "OMG! They're killing babies!".

    • by galabar ( 518411 )
      Not taking sides in any "stem cell war," but adult stem cells do seem to be the ones we hear about having these miraculous effects.
      • by Jhon ( 241832 )

        Well, part of that is likely because it would be a public relations nightmare trying to do trials with fetal stem cells. Adult stem cells appear the much more socially acceptable (across the general population) type of stem cell.

        • by pjw2072 ( 139601 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @05:51PM (#52245679)
          Embryonic stem cells (and any kind of pluripotent stem cells) are hard to work with and haven't produced many results. Adult stem cells are much cheaper to work with and have produced a lot of good results. This isn't a PR issue, it's a technical issue.
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Embryonic stem cells (or pluripotent stem cells -- meaning they can become any type of cell) are hard to get.

            Adult stem cell transfers have been around for a while (~50 years)...and most of it was based on the older Bone Marrow Transfers.

            Note: Adult stem cell transfers (non Autologous (Self)) still have to deal with Host vs. Graft disease.... it's great when it works...but it's also a die roll and can flat out kill you.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Here is a can of red paint, but you aren't allowed to use it and if you do you'll be punished horribly.
            Here is a can of blue paint, and you can do whatever you'd like with it.

            By pjw's logic, the color red is worthless because it isn't used anywhere and clearly can't make art or be useful on a house.
            But blue is the perfect color, just look at all the stuff it's used for, practically everything.

            I wish red didn't suck so bad.

            • by Anonymous Coward

              Exactly, particularly when Red would be so awesome if we knew how to use it right

              I would imagine that stem cells harvested from a bunch of clones of myself would present ZERO Host vs. Graft response and provide an abundant supply of stem cells to infuse in any aging or broken parts of my body

              Get with it people, and I want my damned flying car too

        • by Anonymous Coward

          The other part would be the fact that adult stem cells solve the rejection issues and therefore are more useful therapeutically.

        • Well, part of that is likely because it would be a public relations nightmare trying to do trials with fetal stem cells.

          ... only in America. It is less of a issue in Europe, and a non-issue in China.

          Question: Instead of harvesting the stem cells from the bone marrow of donors, why didn't they harvest the stem cells from the bone marrow of the patients themselves? That would eliminate any immune reaction. Stroke victims generally still have healthy marrow.

          • by Jhon ( 241832 )

            "Question: Instead of harvesting the stem cells from the bone marrow of donors, why didn't they harvest the stem cells from the bone marrow of the patients themselves? That would eliminate any immune reaction. Stroke victims generally still have healthy marrow."

            I don't think it's an issue. The study noted that the stem cells die off pretty quick. They just appear to make the brain cells go "Hey guys! Lets hold hands!" and the patients brain just starts making new connections.

          • Well, part of that is likely because it would be a public relations nightmare trying to do trials with fetal stem cells.

            ... only in America. It is less of a issue in Europe, and a non-issue in China.

            Actually you cannot do fetal stem cells research in Italy (and it is a good thing).

      • by Jhon ( 241832 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @05:44PM (#52245643) Homepage Journal

        And "OH" -- the most interesting part (I didn't read the article cited in TFA, but I've read a few on this subject and know one of the folks in the trial) is that the stem cells die off pretty quick. They just seem to "spark" brain cells to go "Hey guys! Lets hold hands" and magically make new connections.

        • And "OH" -- the most interesting part (I didn't read the article cited in TFA, but I've read a few on this subject and know one of the folks in the trial) is that the stem cells die off pretty quick. They just seem to "spark" brain cells to go "Hey guys! Lets hold hands" and magically make new connections.

          I'm glad you pointed that out; I didn't have a chance to get to this discussion sooner. As a scientist - though not one involved in the study - I find myself wondering if this was a kind of apoptotic response. The stem cells probably found themselves in an unfamiliar environment (they were bone stem cells no longer subjected to bone cell transcription factors, bone cell extracellular matrix, etc) so they may have found themselves with nothing left to do but die. Apoptosis tends to leave tidy little packages in the wake of cell death (as opposed to cells going straight-up necrotic) which may have made some of their contents accessible to other cells. Neurons do live much more dynamic lives than we tend to give them credit for, so they may well have picked up these post-apoptotic packages and then responded to their contents.

          One neat thing about such an approach is it should be fairly short lived on the molecular level, which seems to be just what we wanted here. The proteins and mRNA from the stem cells likely was degraded fairly quickly and almost certainly did not form a self-feedback loop. It sounds like magic, but it's really more like a crude attempt at gene hacking :)

      • by Anonymous Coward

        That is even pope approved and funded. [go.com]

      • by Impy the Impiuos Imp ( 442658 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @10:07PM (#52246729) Journal

        Not taking sides in any "stem cell war," but adult stem cells do seem to be the ones we hear about having these miraculous effects.

        A great deal of effort went into making adult stem cells work like fetus ones, thanks to a couple of true geniuses. How much sooner would we have gotten here without that delay?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        They did these trials with fetal stem cells years ago. You can google for teeth growing inside head and other untoward results with fetal stem cells. Adult stem cells are less apt to do the surprising and undesirable things. [And more likely to be available.]

    • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

      These were ADULT stem-cells.

      Oh? Did anybody ask for their consent before they were ripped from their homes and transported for a foreign land?

  • Miracle! (Score:4, Funny)

    by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @05:38PM (#52245605) Homepage Journal
    It was truly a Miracle from God! Praise Jesus!
    • Re: Miracle! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I don't know about you, but when I pray for cures for diseases and handicaps, I ask for researchers to be enlightened.

      • Re: Miracle! (Score:5, Insightful)

        by HumanWiki ( 4493803 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @06:37PM (#52245907)

        Don't know about you, but I ask why was this person made to suffer in the first place.

        • by Khyber ( 864651 )

          I don't, because all you have to do is look at nature to understand that suffering is a natural part of life.

        • To know humanity's suffering; to be the Son of man
    • What does my Mexican gardener have to do with this?

  • Where's the vaguely related link about the price of wheelchairs going through the roof?

  • and how were they compensated?
    • and how were they compensated?

      What - you wouldn't volunteer to donate? Sure, it's harder than giving blood, but plenty of people donate blood for free.

      • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @06:07PM (#52245743)

        I donate blood every eight weeks (over 10 gallons so far). I have been on the marrow donor list for several years, but have never been matched with anyone. If/when the call comes, I will donate, and have no expectation of compensation. The procedure is very low risk and usually harmless.

        • by CrimsonAvenger ( 580665 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @06:35PM (#52245899)

          Since I am alive and cancer-free today thanks to a bone marrow transplant, George (my new bone marrow) and I thank you and commend you for doing so.

          Oh, and I encourage everyone else to do so as well. It's not difficult, painful, or time-consuming, and it just might save a life....

          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            You can give blood to anyone that has a compatible blood type. If you are a universal donor, this could be just about anyone. A bone marrow donation is far more personal. You may be the only choice, the only hope for one particular patient, you and no one else.

        • by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @09:34PM (#52246631)
          I've been on a marrow donor list since '94, when a volunteer practically accosted me while I was walking to the school cafeteria and begged me to sign up since they were desperately short of Asian donors. They took a cheek swab and two blood samples; that was it.

          A decade later, I got a call saying I was a preliminary match, and they needed my permission to unthaw one of the blood samples so they could run a more thorough compatibility test on it. I would receive a letter I'd need to sign consenting to further testing of my blood, plus some additional questions, which I filled out, signed, and returned. Sadly, the second test revealed my marrow wasn't a good enough match to warrant the risk of a transplant. But it did give me some insight into the process.

          Donors and recipients are kept anonymous. You won't get to meet each other. There is no compensation, but as the donor you won't have to foot any of the medical bills. If you think about it, this is more like insurance than it is a donation. Because who knows, it could be you who needs the bone marrow transplant in the future. The procedure is low-risk, but they did say the area would be really sore for a week or two, like you'd run a marathon (they take the marrow from your hip). Which I thought was a funny analogy to use since I and I suspect most people have never run a marathon.

          Anyway, it's a small price to pay for potentially saving someone's life. Go do it if you haven't yet.
          https://bethematch.org/support-the-cause/ [bethematch.org]
          • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

            It depends on the country.

            In the US, you have the option of making contact with your donor after one year.

            Unless your patient is in really sad shape, a bone marrow donation is like giving platelets. You have a needle in each arm. Blood goes out, is filtered for stem cells, and is then put back in.

            You are also given special drugs to increase stem cell production and make them readily available in your bloodstream.

    • Why don't they use marrow from the people that had the stroke? I don't understand why doners are needed.
    • by slew ( 2918 )

      and how were they compensated?

      San Bio's SB623 is a stem cell line that was originally derived from adult bone marrow stem cells obtained from a company called Lonza in Maryland.

      You can read about this Lonza's product here [lonza.com]. In the product flier, they simply claim that there was "Reasonable compensation for participation" (which is the industry standard non-answer). Word on the street is that you can get $3000/100ml for your bone marrow and in their price sheet Lonzas is charging $429/10ml [lonza.com], so certainly they aren't paying them much more

      • by jedidiah ( 1196 )

        The bill to harvest my donor's stem cells was 40K.

        Chances are that insurance only paid 1/3rd of that.

    • and how were they compensated?

      They are one step closer to not have to worry about being wheelchair-bound for the rest of their lives.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @05:40PM (#52245613)

    Is this report based on real research, or is someone just binge-watching Arrow right now?

    Was the patient's name "F. Smoak"?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Way before its time.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TRtlkcQ6brE

    • by Anonymous Coward

      People love to point out that President George W Bush had a policy that banned federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (The ban was only on tax dollars being used and only on NEW stem cell lines, non-taxpayer dollars on embryonic and even tax dollars on already existing lines were permitted).

      What everybody likes to ignore for various partisan political/ideological reasons is that GWB was the first US President to have an official policy of using tax dollars on adult stem cell research. It's not tha

  • by DigiShaman ( 671371 ) on Friday June 03, 2016 @06:21PM (#52245831) Homepage

    IANAD - It's my limited understand that the 'blood-brain-barrier' - while protects the brain - also inhibits the immune system from gaining access to it too. Perhaps it's not the stem cells. Perhaps, just a though, that the act of drilling holes is breaking the blood-brain-barrier enough for the immune system to go in a cleanup and make way for natural repair.

    Any thoughts on this supposition; false or otherwise?

  • Tears. No words.

    They should have sent a poet.

  • have a laugh from the past :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

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