Experimental stem cell therapy helps restore paralyzed man's movement

When Kris Boesen’s car fishtailed on a wet road, hitting a tree and slamming into a telephone poll, the 21-year-old never thought he would walk again. But results from an early-stage clinical trial using stem cells to restore movement have given the 21-year-old promise that his spinal cord injury may one day be reversed, Fox 5 Atlanta reported.

Boesen, of Bakersfield, California, qualified for the study at the Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California (USC).

“He was extremely excited about having an opportunity to try to do something—to get better than he was at that point,” Boesen’s father, Rodney Boesen, told the news station.

Doctors told the young man that he’d likely never have movement or sensation below his neck, but the trial aimed to improve those functions.

In early April— within two weeks to 30 day of Boesen’s injury— neurosurgeon Charles Liu and his team injected 10 million stem cells, called AST-OPC1 cells, directly into his cervical spinal cord, Fox 5 Atlanta reported. Within two weeks, the effects of his accident began to improve.

"Patients who suffer these disabilities want more than anything else to do something for themselves,” says Dr. Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, told the news station. “They want to be more independent, less dependent. It makes all of us appreciate how important it is that we can do these things."

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Today, three months after receiving the therapy, Boesen can feed himself, use his cellphone and operate his motorized wheelchair, according to Fox 5 Atlanta. He also can write his name, and hug family and friends.

"If I was there and I was able to thank them,” he told the news station. “I would just tell them, ‘Thank you for giving (me) my life back.  Thank you for allowing me to live my life again.’"

Since the procedure, Boesen has been evaluated four times, and he will be monitored every four months.