Stroke Patient Successfully Recovers After Umbilical Cord Blood Therapy
The significant potential of using umbilical cord blood therapy to treat adult stroke patients is converting from research to reality.
In March 2022, cord blood bank StemCyte announced the remarkable recovery of a patient who had been paralysed on one side of his body as the result of a stroke.
About 6% of all deaths from stroke occur in people 15-49 years old with 57% of healthy life lost due to stroke-related death and disability affects people under the age of 70.1
These figures mean that any new therapy that helps stroke patients could impact the lives of millions of people annually. A further major benefit would be lifting the burden on healthcare systems and the families of those affected.
One Cord Blood Therapy and One Year to Full Recovery
A stroke occurs when blood flow is disrupted in a region of the brain, causing the sudden death of brain cells from a lack of oxygen.
About 62.4%2 of cases are what’s known as ischaemic stroke, which is when the blood flow is disrupted by a blockage. A stroke can also be caused by bleeding in the brain, which is called a haemorrhagic stroke.
Stem cell therapies emerged as a possible treatment option for stroke about a decade ago. The brain can recover to some extent after injury, and stem cell therapies offer a promising way to regain functional recovery by reducing oedema (swelling from excess fluid) and inflammation.
In June of 2019, a 46-year-old male patient who had suffered a stroke two hours earlier entered Taiwan’s Tzu Chi University Hospital and became a candidate for the cord blood stroke study. The doctors obtained a baseline MRI image of his brain and a request was sent to the cord blood bank to find a donated cord blood unit that was a match for the patient.
A cord blood unit was found that matched the 46-year-old stroke patient. It came from a baby that was born 17 years earlier in Taiwan.
The cord blood therapy was administered to the patient on the 8th day after his stroke. The patient also received four 100mL infusions of mannitol, a diuretic, to help relieve pressure on the brain.
Magnetic resonance images were taken at two hours and at one day after the umbilical cord blood (UCB) transfusion, then three months and six months after the infusion. The images show the oedema in the right lobe of the patient’s brain disappeared within six months after the cord blood therapy.
The results were clear in the patient’s mobility. The patient began to regain some mobility after the cord blood therapy, and by the third-month mark, he could walk with limited assistance. At the end of the observation period, the patient had fully recovered his motor functions and could live independently.
Most stroke patients are left with permanent disabilities. However, this patient fully recovered in just over a year thanks to one cord blood therapy administered on the 8th day after the stroke.
Umbilical cord blood therapy is typically used to treat diseases in childhood and early teen years. However, strokes predominantly occur in those aged 40+. This reinforces the message to store stem cells for longer as there is a chance they may be needed later in life.
This clinical trial was conducted in cooperation with doctors at Taiwan’s Tzu Chi University Hospital and published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Cell Transplantation on 23 December 2021.
1 Feigin, L et. al. (2021). World Stroke Organization (WSO): Global Stroke Fact Sheet 2022. International Journal of Stroke 2022. 17 (1), 18-29.
2 Feigin, L et. al. (2021). Global, regional, and national burden of stroke and its risk factors, 1990–2019: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2019. Available: https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laneur/article/PIIS1474-4422(21)00252-0/fulltext. Last accessed 19 July 2022.