After experiencing a serious car accident, Kristopher Boesen was told by doctors that he would be completely paralyzed from his neck to his toes for the rest of his life. But despite this, he has now regained movement in his upper body, his arms, and also his hands—so much so that he is now able to feed himself, use his smartphone, and even tightly hug family members and friends.
Remarkably, all of this was made possible because Boesen took part in a clinical trial at the University of Southern California and Asterias Biotherapeutics; what’s more, five other paralyzed individuals also went on to regain some mobility.
More specifically, patients taking part in the study had their spinal cords injected with a dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 stem cells under the guidance of Dr. Charles Liu, who was the head of the surgical team. Liu is also the director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, and his team worked alongside the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC in order to achieve their ground-breaking results. Under normal circumstances, individuals with spinal cord injuries would have surgery to stabilize their spines, but Liu explains why his techniques are far superior to the aforementioned method: “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.”
It only took two weeks for Boesen to demonstrate signs of meaningful healing after the surgery was performed, and merely three months later, he was capable of brushing his own teeth and feeding himself. Since then, Boesen has also illustrated that he is able to utilize a motorized wheelchair entirely on his own.
The AST-OPC1 stem cells are being experimented with at California’s Asterias Biotherapeutics; embryonic cells are being transformed into cells which would usually be present in the brain and spinal cord, and these cells are known to support the function of nerve cells. Aside from aiming for successful results such as the ones which have already been mentioned, the experiments also scrutinize the safety of utilizing high doses of AST-OPC1 stem cells.
Its isn’t clear whether or not Boesen or any of the other patients will experience a greater degree of recovery or not, but the circumstances now seem most promising, to say the least.