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01.12.2012 | Case report | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

Journal of Medical Case Reports 1/2012

Responsiveness of a patient in a persistent vegetative state after a coma to weekly injections of autologous activated immune cells: a case report

Journal of Medical Case Reports > Ausgabe 1/2012
Barbara Fellerhoff, Barbara Laumbacher, Rudolf Wank
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1752-1947-6-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Barbara Fellerhoff, Barbara Laumbacher contributed equally to this work.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors' contributions

BF, BL and RW were involved in acquiring data and writing the manuscript; RW designed the concept of the treatment. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.



An 82-year-old Caucasian woman had remained in a persistent vegetative state after a coma of seven months duration, which occurred after a stroke with hemiplegia, nine years previously. The persistent vegetative state could be reversed in part by weekly injections with activated immune cells. After therapy, our patient responded to commands in addition to regaining spontaneous movements of both arms and the ability to swallow. This is the first report on the treatment with activated immune cells of a patient in a persistent vegetative state after a coma.

Case presentation

An 82-year-old Caucasian woman presented with a persistent vegetative state subsequent to a coma. She retained respiratory and autonomic functions. As contact was not possible, physiotherapy was passive. Her skin was yellowish, and our patient did not move by herself. Vomiting repeatedly resulted from tube feeding. After a once-weekly treatment with activated immune cells sampled from our patient's blood and activated in vitro, several of her functions gradually returned. Our patient opened her eyes in the requested direction and turned her head toward people entering the room. She 'supported' nursing efforts, as the nurse noted a loss of spastic motions. The strength in both her arms returned, and she spontaneously moved her arm on the side experiencing hemiplegia. After three months, our patient could stick out her tongue upon demand. Finally, the swallow reflexes of our patient started to return. However, tube feeding was continued, and our patient died after aspiration of vomit following a feeding.


The success of treatment with autologous activated immune cells in this patient may have resulted from the production of neuroactive substances, such as neurotrophin-3 and brain-derived neurotrophic factor, by activated immune cells. The deterioration of our patient could be reversed, as demonstrated by the restoration of motor strength in her hemiplegic side. In addition, our patient was able to induce motor responses upon request. It seems reasonable to conclude that activated immune cells may improve the chronic vegetative state in some patients.

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