What is a Stroke?
A stroke is a sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain. Most strokes are caused by an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain (ischemic stroke). Other strokes are caused by bleeding into brain tissue when a blood vessel bursts (hemorrhagic stroke).
According to the World Health Organisation – A global response is needed!
Worldwide, cerebrovascular accidents (stroke) are the second leading cause of death and the third leading cause of disability. Stroke, the sudden death of some brain cells due to lack of oxygen when the blood flow to the brain is lost by blockage or rupture of an artery to the brain, is also a leading cause of dementia and depression. Globally, 70% of strokes and 87% of both stroke-related deaths and disability-adjusted life years occur in low- and middle-income countries.
The types of strokes include:
- Ischemic stroke (part of the brain loses blood flow)
- Hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding occurs within the brain)
- Transient ischemic attack, TIA, or mini-stroke (The stroke symptoms resolve within minutes, but may take up to 24 hours on their own without treatment. This is a warning sign that a stroke may occur in the near future.)
What Causes A Stroke
The blockage of an artery in the brain by a clot (thrombosis) is the most common cause of a stroke. The part of the brain that is supplied by the clotted blood vessel is then deprived of blood and oxygen. As a result of the deprived blood and oxygen, the cells of that part of the brain die and the part of the body that it controls stops working. Typically, a cholesterol plaque in one of the brain’s small blood vessels ruptures and starts the clotting process.
Another type of stroke may occur when a blood clot or a piece of atherosclerotic plaque (cholesterol and calcium deposits on the wall of the inside of the heart or artery) breaks loose, travels through the bloodstream, and lodges in an artery in the brain. When blood flow stops, brain cells do not receive the oxygen and glucose they require to function and a stroke occurs. This type of stroke is referred to as an embolic stroke. For example, a blood clot might originally form in the heart chamber as a result of an irregular heart rhythm, like atrial fibrillation. Usually, these clots remain attached to the inner lining of the heart, but occasionally they can break off, travel through the bloodstream (embolize), block a brain artery, and cause a stroke. An embolism, either plaque or clot, may also originate in a large artery (for example, the carotid artery, a major artery in the neck that supplies blood to the brain) and then travel downstream to clog a small artery within the brain.
A cerebral hemorrhage occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures and bleeds into the surrounding brain tissue. A cerebral hemorrhage (bleeding in the brain) causes stroke symptoms by depriving blood and oxygen to parts of the brain in a variety of ways. Blood flow is lost to some cells. Additionally, blood is very irritating and can cause swelling of brain tissue (cerebral edema). Edema and the accumulation of blood from a cerebral hemorrhage increases pressure within the skull and causes further damage by squeezing the brain against the bony skull. This further decreases blood flow to brain tissue and its cells.
In a subarachnoid hemorrhage, blood accumulates in the space beneath the arachnoid membrane that lines the brain. The blood originates from an abnormal blood vessel that leaks or ruptures. Often this is from an aneurysm (an abnormal ballooning out of the blood vessel). Subarachnoid hemorrhages usually cause a sudden severe headache, nausea, vomiting, light intolerance, and stiff neck. If not recognized and treated, major neurological consequences, such as coma, and brain death may occur.
Another rare cause of stroke is vasculitis, a condition in which the blood vessels become inflamed causing decreased blood flow to parts of the brain.
There appears to be a very slight increased occurrence of stroke in people with migraine headache. The mechanism for migraine or vascular headaches includes narrowing of the brain blood vessels. Some migraine headache episodes can even mimic stroke with loss of function of one side of the body or vision or speech problems. Usually, the symptoms resolve as the headache resolves.
By transplanting embryonic stem cells, it is possible to repair the damaged brain and recover the lost body functions. The mechanism involved in the brain healing is not fully understood ( see our brain injury page) but what we observe is a progressive recovery of the brain functions followed by a recovery of the speech and mobility functions.
Benefits of Embryonic Stem Cells for Stroke Treatment
ur understanding is that at the time of the stroke, the brain produces astrocytes and neural stem cells whose functions are to stop the damage to spread and produce new neurones and new neuronal connections. This repair is however limited in time and after a few days, the self-healing mechanism has stopped.
By injecting Embryonic Stem Cells, the self-healing mechanism is triggered again and the patient’s brain starts to produce new neural stem cells which go to the damaged areas and create new neurons and new neuronal connections. By repeating the Embryonic Stem Cell injections every 6 or 7 days, it keeps the brain healing system running and achieves the most efficient repair after stroke. The best results are observed after a minimum of 3 injections.
Results vary depending on the extent of the damages and on the overall health of the patients. It is however our pleasure to say that among all the diseases that are treated by stem cells, stroke is probably the one that shows the most spectacular results. We have seen patients talking again after only two injections, patients able to move an arm or walk again. The depression present in most stroke patients is also lifted quickly after the first embryonic stem cell treatment.
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