Our report on stem cells for migraines is published

Stem cells hold great promise in the treatment of many conditions, possibly including migraines. In a post from 3 years ago I’ve written about a report from Australia that described 4 patients with refractory chronic headaches who had a very good response from stem cells. They were given stem cells for other conditions and coincidentally their migraines improved.

Since many patients come to our practice after seeing several other neurologists and headache specialists, we often have to resort to new, non-traditional, and unproven treatments. This is how I started using Botox 25 years ago (the FDA approved it for migraines only 6 years ago).

After reading the Australian report I decided to try stem cell treatment in some of my most refractory patients. Only patients who failed to respond to Botox and at least 3 preventive drugs were offered to participate in this pilot study. The only type of stem cells that the FDA allows to be injected are cells taken from patient’s own body without altering them. The richest source of stem cells in our bodies is fat. My colleague, Dr. Kenneth Rothaus who is a plastic surgeon, performed a liposuction to obtained fat tissue, from which we separated active cells.

We enrolled 9 patients and 3 did have significant temporary improvement. The results are obviously not dramatic, but it is possible that in less severely affected patients this treatment could work better. More importantly, using stem cells from an umbilical cord or placenta is more likely to be effective as these are younger and more active stem cells. There are many companies researching these cells for various indications, but not yet migraines. The reason why stem cells should help at least some migraine sufferers is the fact that they have strong anti-inflammatory properties while migraine involves neurogenic inflammation.

The results of our pilot study were just published in Case Reports in Neurology.

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