A person recently wrote to me saying that he had a brainstem stroke about a year and half ago. He now has residue spasticity, ataxia, and tremor on his right side, worse in his arm than in his legs. He asked whether and what stem cell therapies may be beneficial for his condition. He has been taking drugs to prevent the tremor without success.

I thought that my answer to him might be of interest to others and therefore post it here.

I am not sure that stem cells can do anything for your condition. Your brainstem stroke probably damaged brainstem neurons that control muscle tone and body posture, mostly affecting your right arm and your leg to a lesser extent. You are blaming the solutions that your body has devised to solve your loss of motor control. The ataxia represents inadequate motor control. The spasticity result from loss of descending inhibition of your spinal reflex circuits. Tremor are a manifestation of the systems overcompensation to allow you to move and control your arm and legs. These are plastic changes of your nervous system that allows you to move your limbs, albeit not as well as you would like.

In my opinion, instead of trying to eliminate the ataxia, tremor, and spasticity, you should be trying to use them to your advantage to move and control your movements. You should doing intensive repetitive motor training rather than looking for drugs or cells to eliminate the symptoms of your loss of motor control. For example, your nervous system is like that of a baby, learning to use his hands and feet for the first time. You need to use them as much as possible. For example, I assume that you can type. You should buy a computer typing game and practice typing bimanually as fast as you can. Do you play a guitar or some other musical instrument? Play as many hours a day as you can. Walk at least a mile a day. Swim daily. Use your right arm and legs at least 6 hours a day.

That is how I would try to get recovery from a brainstem stroke. Do it by engaging in intensive repetitive exercise and getting your brain's natural plasticity to find ways to compensate for loss of neurons damaged by the stroke. While stem cells can do much and are important for restoring function, they are not omnipotent. They cannot do everything and don't know how to do everything. Avoid doctors making false and unsubstantiated claims that their stem cells can cure stroke. There is no credible data and no stem cell therapy has been shown to restore function yet in human. I would not trust any doctor who claims that he/she has a stem cell therapy that does so and charge you for the therapy. Avoid such people.