A split-second decision while driving resulted in 21-year-old Kristopher (Kris) Boesen being involved in a car accident. After the vehicle he was driving fishtailed on a wet road, hit a tree, and then slammed into a telephone pole, Boesen lost consciousness.
Though Kris woke up alive in the hospital, he found himself paralyzed. Reportedly, his cervical spine suffered a traumatic injury from the crash. Both he and the car were “broken”, and this reality was difficult to comprehend. Doctors told the young man’s parents that he would likely be paralyzed from the neck down for life. However, they also informed them that Kris qualified for a clinical study that might help.
Thanks to Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, and a group of physicians from the Keck Medical Center of USC, Kris has received mobility of his upper body. The group of doctors became the first in California to inject patients involved with the trial with an experimental treatment made from stem cells, and so far, the results – at least concerning Boesen – have been positive.
Liu explained: “Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but generally does very little to restore motor or sensory function. With this study, we are testing a 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.”
In April, an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells was injected directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord. Within weeks, Boesen began to show signs of improvement. And in only three months, he was able to feed himself, use his cellphone, write his name, hug his friends and family, and operate a motorized wheelchair.
In September, Liu commented: “As of 90 days post-treatment, Kris has gained significant improvement in his motor function, up to two spinal cord levels. In Kris’ case, two spinal cord levels mean the difference between using your hands to brush your teeth, operate a computer or do other things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so having this level of functional independence cannot be overstated.”
Thanks to the treatment, the 21-year-old is beginning to envision a future in which he might be able to live independently and care for himself. Said Boesen, who is passionate about repairing and driving sports cars: “All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance. But if there’s a chance for me to walk again, then heck yeah! I want to do anything possible to do that.”
The groundbreaking surgery is the latest example of how the emerging field of neurorestoration and regenerative medicine might allow victims of accidents to re-claim their mobility and, in effect, their lives. Additionally, stem cell research is ongoing and might even allow patients with Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and even cancer find healing. Visit this website to learn more.
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