Adult Stem Cell Study

Good news – I just had brain surgery!

Sounds funny, I know, but I got admitted to a clinical trial for an experimental treatment at Stanford Hospital.  I was lucky to be the last person admitted into the Stanford study with 11 other people. There are 156 nationwide.  I was very excited to be included in the study. I was told 6,000 expressed interest in participating in the first 2 days after the study was announced.  I was lucky that my situation matched their 60 criteria for admission.

I had my surgery November 14th.  I had to get to Sanford at 5:30am for the procedure. It took 4 hours. I had local anesthesia, and was not conscious during the procedure. I don’t remember any of it. They put a frame on top of my head to keep it from moving during the surgery.

Since it is a double-blind research study, I am not sure what happened during the surgery. There’s a 2/3 chance I got stem cells.  1/3 chance I got none – just a hole in my head!   There are three groups – two with different doses of stem cells and one with nothing. In the groups with stem cells, adult stem cells are injected around the stroke site. The stem cells will not last long term, according to Dr. Gary Steinberg, but will pump out growth factors and other proteins in the brain to aid in recovery after stroke. I’m sure hoping I was in the group with the most stem cells!

They did an MRI before and after the surgery. Another at my 1 week check up.  And now I’ll go back for testing after 1, 2, 3, 6, 9 and 12 months.  They’ll test my motor function (arm/hand and foot) and sometimes my blood and more MRI work.  When it’s all over, I’ll find out which group I was in.

It’s hard not to know if I got the cells.  And hard to tell if I’m getting any benefit.  It does seem like I have more range of motion with my arm, but hard to tell.  Fingers crossed that it helps my recovery, and that they find ways to help more people recovering from stroke.

There are many great articles and videos out there about the use of stem cells to help stroke survivors. If you’d like to learn more about this study, take a look at some of these links:

1) The study in Stroke Journal

2) An interview with Dr. Gary Steinberg, the neurosurgeon who is spear-heading the adult stem cell therapy trial

3) A video featuring Dr. Gary Steinberg about using stem cells for stroke recovery

4) StrokeFocus podcast covering the issue

5) A success story featuring Sonia Olea Coontz