Stem cells for stroke?

FRESNO, Calif.

Valisa Blanton knows a thing or two about beauty.

"I've been working with hair practically since I got out of high school! I love doing hair, I absolutely love it," said Valisa Blanton.

The single mom's been a hairdresser for 20 years, but that all changed last spring.

"I realized I couldn't move. I tried to talk and I couldn't talk was like ra ra ra... oh my god what's happening to me? I'm having a stroke," Valisa said.

Valisa lost some motor function in the right side of her body.

"It breaks my heart," Valisa said.

Two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke. Doctors use clot busting drugs to help prevent that from happening, but neurosurgeon Doctor George Rappard says, after that, there's only a 15 to 20% chance of improvement.

"We've been very limited in fixing a stroke once it's happened. All we have is physical therapy where we train people to compensate for their disabilities, "George Rappard, M.D., a neuro interventional surgeon for the Los Angeles and Spine Institute at Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, explained.

Now, a first of its kind trial is testing the use of a stroke patient's own stem cells to restore function.

"They are a population of cells you retain in your body that have the ability to turn into other things," Dr. Rappard said.

Doctors think the stem cells might act as instructive cells, telling the brain how to heal.

"We take the stem cells that your body normally uses to make red blood cells and separate those stem cells out of the bone marrow," Dr. Rappard said.

Doctors then inject them into the affected side of the brain through the groin. In mice, there was a 40% improvement in motor skills.

"I think that's one of the most potentially exciting things in my field ever, and I have a very exciting field," Dr. Rappard said.

"I feel like my brain is like 'wow!'," Valisa said.

Valisa is part of the double blind human study. While she doesn't know if she received the stem cells or not, it's given her hope toward a full recovery.

"40 and fabulous honey!" Valisa said.

The phase one trial involved 10 patients. Doctors hope to enroll at least 100 for phase two. Only patients with ischemic strokes will be eligible to participate in the clinical trial.

For More Information, Contact:

Los Angeles Brain and Spine Institute Hollywood Prsbyterian Medical Center (323)913-4350

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