Imagine that you have lost control over your car and you wake up in a hospital paralyzed from the neck down. This is actually a story about one man, named Kristopher Boesen, who experienced a life-changing moment after his car spiraled out of control on a slippy road surface, slamming into a tree and lamp post. The doctors that cured him warned his parents that he may never be able to function from the neck down once again.
– The procedure
Kris had an offer to go through a potentially life-changing procedure, which involved stem cells, which “have the capability to repair injured nervous tissue through replacement of damaged cells”(1). Even though the experimental procedure was not guaranteeing any restoration to his paralysis, he decided that the risk was worth taking.
The process of injecting 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Kris’ cervical spinal cord by Dr. Liu, begin in April. The AST-OPC1 cells actually come from donated eggs which are fertilized in vitro. The doctor explained that:
“Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but does very little to restore motor or sensory function. With this study, we are testing procedure that may improve neurological function, which could mean the difference between being permanently paralyzed and being able to use one’s arms and hands. Restoring that level of function could significantly improve the daily lives of patients with severe spinal injuries.” (2)
– The results after the procedure
After three weeks of the therapy, Kris started showing some signs of improvement, and after a two months period, he was able to answer the phone, write his name and operate a wheelchair. The improvement in his motor functions was significant as well. They were actually the transmissions of messages from the brain to muscle groups to create movement. (3)
He also recovered two spinal cord levels, which has made a huge difference in his abilities to move. The difference was between minimal movement and none at all, as well as having the ability to function on his own. Kris regained the incredibly important aspect of independence.
After he saw the results of the stem cell therapy, he said: “All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance…But if there’s an opportunity for me to walk again, then heck yeah! I want to do anything possible to do that.”
– The future
The doctors are still not able to make any promise that the condition of Kris will improve more, but they can keep experimenting with the stem cell research in order to try and improve the likelihood of it, in order to work fully on paralysis.
They have also made some huge steps forward and will hopefully continue to do so in their quest to solve paralysis, by teaming up with “associate faculty based in departments across KSOM and the University to study stem cell-driven new medicine”, Dr. Liu and his team at USC are determined to continue with the research of stem cells and a lot more.
The stem cells research goes on and it can be used in different ways other than paralysis, such as Parkinson’s and diabetes to cancer.(4)