Stemming the Last Stroke

2009-01-22 | |
Last updated: 2009-01-22

A stroke is a potentially devastating condition with effects ranging from memory loss to paralysis to personality changes or to death in the worst cases. In so many situations a stroke is seriously disabling for those who suffer it so the recent announcement of a clinical trial for a new stroke treatment is very promising news.

The news of a new clinical trial for stroke treatment has been announced by all the major news providers because of its health significance and because of the controversy associated with the use of stem cells as a part of the treatment procedure.

Ignoring the debate over the appropriate sources of stem cells for a moment, the stem cell is a powerful agent within the body because of its ability to adapt and convert into any other form of cell. In the treatment of strokes, the stem cells are injected very close to the site of the stroke damage and allowed to do their “magic” so as to start replacing the cells that have died and start rewiring the broken nerve pathways.

What is truly amazing is that from a time frame of only 4 and a half years ago until now this approach has moved from a theoretical concept to first clinical trials. It was only in 2004 that a study was published announcing that stem cells could be converted into brain cells within an animal. However, the researchers were already thinking of the use of stem cells for the possible repair of brain areas damaged by stroke.

Coming back to the debate on stem cell based research, it is very unfortunate that the Bush administration reduced so much of the public funding that would have allowed the embryonic cloning currently required to produce stem cells. While this move did not stop research, it arguably did slow the rate of progress. We can only hope that Obama repeals the funding decision such that stem cell research can move ahead full steam.

While the objections of those with moral convictions on the use of stem cells is understandable, it is hard to tell a paraplegic that research into mending broken spinal chords will not advance because of someone else’s belief system. The best thing that can likely come of this debate is that stem cell research advances far enough that the use of fetal tissue as a source of stem cells becomes unnecessary and the stem cells can be produced in an artificial manner.

Maybe then we can be less divided and more open to the intriguing possibilities that stem cell use has to significantly improve the lives of the injured and the ill. In the mean time, the effectiveness of stem cells in stroke treatment is something well worth watching.

Tags: , , , ,

Category: Uncategorized

Comments are closed.