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Gordie Howe recovery illustrates stem cells' healing power; no surprise to UM researchers

It probably didn't come as a surprise to Eva Feldman, director of the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute at the University of Michigan and director of the ALS clinic at the school's health system, that Gordie Howe is doing much better after getting an injection of stem cells in Mexico to help slow his decline following a stroke in October.

Or that Howe was walking, talking to fans and showing flashes of his old humor at a tribute dinner in his honor Friday night in his hometown of Saskatoon — a dinner that a few weeks ago seemed it would be impossible for him to attend.

During a telecast of the Red Wings' game in Phoenix Saturday night, photos of Howe and other hockey luminaries who attended the dinner were shown.

Howe's stroke left him unable to walk and very disoriented. This followed the news made by his son, Mark, in February 2012 that the hockey legend, who is now 86, had started to show signs of dementia.

Howe got an injection of neural stem cells from Novastem, a Mexican company that licensed a line of stem cells created by San Diego-based Stemedica Cell Technologies Inc.

Stemedica is conducting clinical trials on the procedure in the U.S. but only patients who had their stroke six months ago are eligible to participate. Hence, the trip by Howe to a facility in Tijuana.

In an e-mail to the San Diego Union-Tribune on Christmas Day, Howe's youngest son, Murray, a radiologist, wrote: "If I did not witness my father's astonishing response, I would not have believed it. Our father had one foot in the grave on Dec. 1."

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