April 16, 2009
The good news continues to flow about the first stroke patient successfully treated in Houston using the patient's own adult stem cells. The patient, Roland Henrich, was originally admitted to the emergency room at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center on March 25, 2009 with signs of stroke--he could not speak and had significant weakness on his right side. Because it was beyond the few hours window for use of the clot-dissolving drug TPA, the adult stem cell trial was his only option. The next day some of his bone marrow was removed, the adult stem cells separated, and returned intravenously to the patient. In less than a week doctors noted that he was recovering remarkably well and had not shown any signs of paralysis. Within 11 days of the treatment Mr. Henrich was walking, climbing stairs unassisted, and said his first word after the stroke, captured on a local news video and surprising his own doctor and leader of the clinical trial, Dr. Sean Savitz. His wife says now he has spoken several single words and phrases and has fed the cows by himself.
Stroke is the nation's third leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer. This breakthrough has the potential to drastically change the way stroke patients are treated in the future. The trial marks one of the latest advances involving the therapeutic abilities of adult stem cells. Researchers have found that adult stem cells can transform into various specific kinds of tissue and that they contain proteins that foster healing.
The stroke clinical trial builds on previous research projects in Houston. Trials conducted by Texas Heart Institute doctors involve heart failure patients and heart attack survivors; another, conducted by UT-Houston doctors, involves treating children within 48 hours of a head injury. These trials are also ongoing.