New Zealand and US researchers have found a drug therapy with the potential to restore much of a stroke sufferer's mobility immediately.
The results of the two-and-a-half year study by the universities of Otago and California have been published online in the scientific journal Nature.
While tests so far have only been conducted in mice, human trials of the drug compound for stroke recovery could be as close as two years away.
Dr Andrew Clarkson of Otago University says the tests' results have been been dramatic, with an immediate 45% to 50% gain of function.
"That's a huge recovery. When I initially set these studies up I was shocked ... I actually thought the technician had set things up wrong," he said.
Dr Clarkson said the researchers repeated the studies three times to confirm the findings.
He says the main problem with the drug is that it affects the kidneys so the researchers are waiting on pharmaceutical companies to design better compounds, which is about 12 months away.
Each day, about 17 New Zealanders have a stroke and there is currently no drug available for promoting recovery.