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Howe, gravely ill at the time, underwent the treatment on Dec. 8 in San Diego.
"As a family, we are thrilled that Dad's quality of life has greatly improved, and his progress has exceeded our greatest expectations," the Howe family said Friday in a news release in which it thanked a legion of fans praying for its father's recovery. "Once again, we cannot emphasize how much you have fueled Mr. Hockey's recovery, and we thank everyone for their continued prayers and support."
The neural stem cells were injected into the spinal canal on Day 1 and mesenchymal stem cells by intravenous infusion on Day 2, according to the release.
Just five days later, Howe was walking unaided and even taking part in daily household chores, according to the release.
When tested, his ability to name items has gone from less than 25 percent before the procedure to 85 percent today, the release said.
TextStemedica is a biotechnology company that manufactures allogeneic adult stem cells in its U.S. government-licensed, cGMP facility in San Diego. Although no relation, Dr. Howe and his brothers -
TextNovastem is conducting federally licensed and Institutional Review Board-approved clinical trials for several medical conditions, including stroke, using Stemedica's stem cell products.
Cartistem is manufactured from mesenchymal stem cells derived from allogeneic (donor) umbilical cord blood. Umbilical cord blood is a readily accessible source of high-quality stem cells, is associated with minimal health risks and carries relatively few ethical concerns.
The stem cells are mixed with hyaluronan, a natural polymer that plays a major role in wound healing and is a building block of joint cartilage. Cartistem is surgically administered into the area of cartilage damage following an arthroscopic surgery as an adjunct to microfracture, a commonly used technique used to repair cartilage damage.
The two-year, phase I/IIa study will enroll a total of 12 participants aged 18 years and older, with a body mass index of less than 35. Initially, six individuals with lesions sized 2 to 5 centimeters will be recruited into the study; an additional six volunteers with lesions larger than 5 centimeters will be enrolled sequentially. Each participant will undergo eligibility screening followed by a 12-month observation period to determine the safety and efficacy of the drug with an additional long-term follow-up evaluation at 24 months.