The CDC lists stroke as the fifth leading cause of death in Kentucky, as well as the United States. Stroke is not only a leading cause of death but those who survive can suffer from a wide range of disabilities for the rest of their lives. The human brain is limited in its ability to regrow damaged tissue, after a stroke the brain undergoes an inflammatory response. Additionally, a limited ability to develop new blood cells and a hindrance to neurological growth results in an area void of functional brain tissue.
Stroke rehabilitation is geared towards relearning skills lost by brain damage in an attempt to improve quality of life, and a regaining of independence. Rehabilitation focus differs from person to person as well as the affected areas, or abilities, of the body. Physical training to improve strength and coordination is common, as well as improving affected limbs and increasing range of motion. Cognitive therapy focusing on speech and memory retention are also common after a stroke. Some experimental therapies like stem cells and magnetic stimulation are being investigated, but nothing conclusive has been found to help outside of a clinical trial setting.
New experimental treatments are always being pursued, like a recent experiment at UCLA involving stroke affected mice. The team of UCLA scientists developed a gel infused with growth stimulating, and inflammation suppressing molecules that was injected directly into the stroke affected areas. More than three months later neural networks had formed and brain tissue had regenerated, resulting in improved motor function. The study on mice was intended for the period of time immediately following a stroke, but the team plans to test this on mice with long term damage. More research and experimentation needs to be performed, but this should come as exciting news for the more than 6 million Americans suffering from the long term effects of stroke.