The use of stem cells in medical therapy has become common. Recently a great deal of research has been done to determine whether they are useful in regenerating the broken connections in those indiividuals with paraplegia and quadraplegia. This recent article from KQED Science highlights the success of one such trial in America. The results are extremely hopeful.
Rod Boesen says his son, Kris, was so bad off he couldn’t move a muscle from the neck down, and needed a ventilator to keep him drawing breath.
In March, Kris, then 20, was driving on a wet road when he crashed his car into a tree and a telephone poll, crushing three of his vertebrae. The accident left him with almost no feeling south of his neck, and doctors foresaw that he would lead the life of a paraplegic.
“They thought he was going to be totally, from the head on down, paralyzed,” says Rod
But that has not been the case; Kris has regained the use of his hands and arms. In April, as part of a research trial, a surgical team from USC’s Keck Medical Center injected millions of embryonic stem cells into Boesen’s spine. Two weeks later, Boesen began to show some improvement. After six weeks, he was discharged and returned home to Bakersfield, California to continue his rehabilitation.
Now, five months after the stem cell injection, Boesen is remarkably self-sufficient, considering the initial prognosis. From feeding himself to talking on the phone to being able to twist the cap off a soda bottle, life is a degree more normal than anyone thought possible.
“We used to lift weights, that’s something we used to do together,” his dad says. “Now we’re doing that again. Only it’s a lot less weight.”
The goal of the experimental stem cell treatment is to regrow the protective myelin sheath around each nerve, giving them a chance to heal. Whether this has occurred in Boesen yet is unknown–doctors would need to administer a spinal tap to find out, and that is dangerous for patients in this condition.
So researchers don’t know yet whether Boesen’s recovery is due to the injection of stem cells. All they can say is that his progress has been remarkable, if not unprecedented for this type of spine injury.