Stroke patients who had mobility issues, including some who couldn’t walk, have had their symptoms reversed in a medical breakthrough.
A stem cell treatment programme of just 18 people at Stanford University in California enabled the patients to regain the ability to walk, speak and have a normal family life.
The participants were given a local anaesthetic and had stem cells injected in the damaged part of their brains. They went home the next day.
They were tracked for a year afterwards and nearly half reported a significant impact on their lifestyle. All showed an increasing improvement, with one patient who was previously in a wheelchair now taking up jogging.
The treatment was even shown to work three years after someone suffered a stroke, giving hope to sufferers all over the world. Historically, it was believed the brain was unable to regenerate after six months.
Study leader Professor Gary Steinberg said: “Patients improved by several standard measures, and their improvement was not only statistically significant, but clinically meaningful.
“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.
“This was just a single trial, and a small one. But some patients couldn’t walk. Others couldn’t move their arm. Patients who were in wheelchairs are walking now.
“Older people tend not to respond to treatment as well, but here we see 70-year-olds recovering substantially.
“This could revolutionise our concept of what happens after not only stroke, but traumatic brain injury and even neurodegenerative disorders.”
The team is currently looking to replicate the results with a bigger trial involving 153 patients.
Dr Shamim Qadir, of the Stroke Assoication, said: “In the UK someone has a stroke every three and a half minutes and more than half of all stroke survivors are left with a disability.
“There is an urgent need for alternative treatments. This trial adds to a growing body of early clinical evidence suggesting stem cell treatment could promote recovery in people months, and even years after having a stroke.”
There are 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, with more than 150,000 people in the country having a stroke every year.