First paralyzed human treated with stem cells has now regained his upper body movement

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Imagine losing control of your car and waking up in the hospital paralyzed from the neck down. This is the story of Kristopher Boesen, who experienced a life-changing moment where his car spiraled out of control on a slippy road surface, slamming into a tree and lamp post. Doctors warned Kris’s parents that he might never be able to function from the neck down again.

The Procedure

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Kris was offered the opportunity to go through a potentially life-changing procedure involving stem cells, which ‘have the capability to repair injured nervous tissue through replacement of damaged cells(1). The experimental procedure did not guarantee any restoration to Kris’s paralysis, but to him, the risk was worth taking.

The process began in April where Dr. Liu injected 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Kris’ cervical spinal cord. (AST-OPC1 cells come from donated eggs that are fertilized in vitro (ie. in a petri dish). For more information on where stem cells come from, check out this resource.)  Dr. Liu explains 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 a mere 3 weeks of therapy, Kris started showing signs of improvement, and within 2 months he could answer the phone, write his name and operate a wheelchair.  He had regained significant improvement in his motor functions; which are the transmissions of messages from the brain to muscle groups to create movement (3).

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