Stroke is the leading cause of permanent disability in the U.S., striking nearly 800,000 people each year. Hemorrhagic, or bleeding, stroke is particularly devastating, says Mayo Clinic neurologist and critical care expert Dr. William D. Freeman. "About 40% of hemorrhagic stroke patients die within a month, and half of the survivors have some type of impairment," he adds.
Within a few months, Dr. Freeman, along with neurologist Dr. James Meschia, and stem cell biologist Dr. Abba Zubair, will begin a unique, U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved study to see if stem cells can help hemorrhagic stroke patients heal.
"We used to think nerve cells cannot regrow, but we believe differently now," says Dr. Zubair. "I think we are in an era of excitement, where stem cells can be used almost like a drug." The Mayo Clinic team has already had success repairing injured brain tissue with stem cells in rodents, which helped pave the way for this next phase of testing in people.