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Stem cell therapy shows promise in stroke recovery

February 5, 2013

Stroke recovery can often be a challenge for seniors. While physical therapy or moving to assisted living facilities can help, the process can still be a lengthy one and patients may not recover all the physical function they had before their stroke. However, a new study suggests the use of stem cell treatment may help seniors regain their independence in the aftermath of a stroke.

The research was performed by scientists from Bolivia's La Paz University Hospital, and focused on treating rats who had suffered a stroke. One group of subjects was injected with stem cells 30 minutes after the incident, while the other was injected with a saline solution. Just one day after the treatment, the group that received stem cells was already recovering better. After two weeks, the stem cell group was back to normal performance on behavioral tests. Though more research needs to be conducted, the team is confident it could have an impact on human stroke recovery.

"Improved recovery was seen regardless of origin of the stem cells, which may increase the usefulness of this treatment in human trials," said principle investigator Dr. Exuperio Díez-Tejedor. "Adipose-derived cells in particular are abundant and easy to collect without invasive surgery."

Strokes are one of the biggest threats to healthy aging. An estimated 140,000 people die from strokes each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and those who survive them are often faced with a long road to recovery. The incidents frequently cause problems with mobility, cognitive function and even emotional issues. In fact, according to the National Stroke Association, depression is a common side effect of strokes.