First Paralyzed Human Treated with Stem Cells Has Now Regained His Upper Body Movement

Waking up in a hospital bed without having the ability to control your body is one of he most dreadful moments, and very often the reason is a car accident.

This story follows the life journey of Kristopher Boesen, whose life changed forever when car spiraled out of control on a slippery road surface, slamming into a tree and lamp post. The doctors gave his family very grim prognosis – he might never be able to function from the neck down again.

But, one day Kris was offered to go through a potentially life-changing experimental procedure involving stem cells, which ‘have the capability to repair injured nervous tissue through replacement of damaged cells‘. Still, there was no guarantee that he will regain his body functions.

In April, Kris was injected 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into his spinal cord (AST-OPC1 cells come from donated eggs that are fertilized in vitro ie. in a petri dish) and the procedure was led by Dr. Liu.

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,” explains r. Liu.

Signs of improvement appeared after 3 weeks of the treatment, and within 2 months he could answer the phone, write his name and operate a wheelchair.  Kris also showed crucial improvement in his motor functions; which are the transmissions of messages from the brain to muscle groups to create movement.

The treatment recovered two spinal cord levels which made a huge difference in his movement abilities.

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,” says Kris.

Even though there are no guarantees that his condition will continue to improve, they can keep experimenting with stem cell research to try and improve the likelihood of it working fully on paralysis.

Kris’s case was a big step forward in paralysis treatment, and will Dr. Liu and his team t the USC will continue to solve paralysis,by teaming up with ‘associate faculty based in departments across KSOM and the University to study stem cell-driven new medicine‘.

Stem cell research is ongoing but with very promising results. The treatment can be used in many ways other than treating paralysis; from Parkinson’s and diabetes to cancer.