May Means Hope for Stroke Survivors

My childhood memories of Grandma fall into two categories: before stroke, and after stroke.

Before stroke, I remember her soft hugs and constant laughter and how she always smelled of delicious baked goods from her kitchen. After stroke, I remember her wheelchair, the antiseptic smell of the nursing home, and how the stroke permanently robbed her of her ability to hug, speak and laugh.

That was in 1971. This Stroke Awareness Month, I was surprised to learn that while 80 percent of strokes can be prevented with the management of key risk factors like high blood pressure and by living a healthy lifestyle, there is still an enormous gap in treatment options for stroke once it does occur. Ischemic strokes – the most common kind resulting from a blockage in a vessel supplying blood to the brain – must be treated with clot-busting drugs within the first three to four hours to improve the survivor’s chances for recovery. Endovascular procedures to remove the clot are also an option, but they must be performed within six hours of the stroke event, and only after the clot-busting drugs have been administered.

Unfortunately, according to the Alliance for Regenerative Medicine, less than five percent of stroke victims are able to receive this emergency treatment. Those who do still may be left with severe disabilities, even after months of physical and occupational therapy. According to the American Stroke Association, stroke is still the leading cause of acquired disabilities in the United States, leaving millions of otherwise healthy people impaired. The emotional and financial toll on survivors, families and society is immense – with the aggregate costs to the U.S surpassing $73 billion each year.

Obviously, chronic stroke survivors – those who live with persistent disabilities six months or longer following their stroke – represent an enormous unmet medical need in this country and around the world. The good news is that regenerative medicine is honing in on treatments that may be able to restore some cognitive and motor function in this large, “post-acute” population. The Alliance for Regenerative Medicine lists at least six companies making strides in this area, including our client, SanBio.

SanBio is a scientific leader in regenerative medicine focused on developing treatments for severe neurological disorders, like chronic stroke. What’s so exciting about its research is its focus on helping the body – or in the case of stroke survivors, the brain – heal itself. SanBio researchers have developed an innovative cell-based product comprised of modified adult stem cells obtained from the bone marrow of healthy adult donors. Early studies show that when these cells are implanted directly into the damaged area of the brain, they can trigger neural regeneration, allowing for recovery six months to five years following a stroke. Stanford University produced this video showing two ischemic stroke patients’ response to this treatment following a Phase 1/2a clinical trial:

According to Dr. Damien Bates, SanBio’s Chief Medical Officer and Head of Research, “Early clinical trials have shown some encouraging results for the use of stem cells to treat impairments due to stroke; we at SanBio believe this approach has the potential to address profound unmet clinical needs in patients suffering from a wide variety of neurological disease states.” Phase 2 clinical trials with this treatment are currently underway.

I still remember how the doctors immediately told my family Grandma would never walk or talk again. Even though regenerative medicine treatments for stroke may be years away, they are already providing something my grandma and millions of chronic stroke survivors like her haven’t had until now: hope.

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