Even as the research and its application remains a hot button topic in many circles, a paralyzed individual treated with stem cells has successfully regained movement in his upper body.

His name is Kristopher Boesen. He lost control of his vehicle, spiraling out of control on a slippery surface. The vehicle slammed into a lamp post and tree. Boesen woke up in the hospital and discovered he was paralyzed. His parents had already been warned their son may never again be able to move from the neck down.

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Stem Cell Research Changed His Life

As part of his treatment, Boesen was offered the unique chance to change his situation with a procedure never performed before. It involved stem cells. He was told stem cells had the facility to repair injured nervous tissue by replacing damaged cells. His doctors could not guarantee any level of success but thought the risk was worth taking.

Meet Kris Boesen

All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance. – Kristopher Boesen

The Procedure

Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, led the surgical team, that injected an experimental does 10 million AST-OPC1 cells. These cells originated from eggs donated and fertilized in vitro. They were applied directly to the patient’s cervical spinal cord.

Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center,

Photo: news.usc.edu

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In general, spinal cord injuries are managed with a surgery that hopes to stabilize the spine. Unfortunately, the process doesn’t necessarily restore sensory or motor function.

The goal with the stem cell procedure was to achieve a level of function that might significantly improve severe spinal injuries and the daily lives of sufferers. With Boesen’s treatment, the idea was to improve neurological function beyond normal expectations. It meant the difference between regaining use of the arms and hands and permanent paralysis.

The Success Story

After three weeks of rehabilitative therapy, Boesen began showing signs of improvement. Inside of eight weeks, Boesen was writing his name, answering the telephone, and operating a wheelchair. Tests showed noticeable gains in motor function, especially in the successful transmission of messages to muscle groups from the brain that promotes movement.

Kris Boesen, CIRM spinal cord injury clinical trial patient

Kris Boesen, CIRM spinal cord injury clinical trial patient

The patient also recovered two spinal chord levels. This made an impressive difference in movement somewhere between none at all, minimal movement, and being able to completely function on his own. In that regard, the patient showed a level of independence not usually seen in injuries as severe as his.

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Not surprisingly, Boesen is both stunned and ecstatic about the results. He has 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.

What Comes Next

While his medical team aren’t making any promises, everyone is optimistic about their patient’s current condition and chances of further improvement. The goal is to keep researching and testing stem cells to see in what ways they can be used to battle paralysis and help this patient and others like him.

This case is a demonstration of the huge advancements in solving paralysis and how continued research is imperative. Currently, Boesen’s medical team is working with the the stem cell research community looking at the viability of stem cells and how to apply them as new medical procedures. It is believed that stem cells have the capacity to not merely help the paralyzed, but sufferers of cancer, diabetes, and Parkinson’s disease.

Click here to get more updates on Kris Boesen’s CIRM Blog.

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