After suffering a traumatic injury, 20 year old Kristopher (Kris) Boesen was told that he would most likely be permanently paralysed. However, after qualifying for a clinical study involving stem cells, he has since regained the use of his arms and hands, with the chance of more progress in the future.
Just before his 21st birthday, Boesen, from Bakersfield, was involved in a car accident after his vehicle fishtailed on a wet road, causing him to hit a tree before slamming into a telephone pole. The result of the accident was a traumatic injury to his cervical spine. After his parents were told that there was a good chance that their son would be permanently paralysed from the neck down, Keck Medical Center of USC announced news of their clinical trial. The team of doctors became the first in California to inject a patient with an experimental treatment which was made from stem cells, which was part of a multi-centre clinical trial. As Boesen was breathing without a ventilator, he was able to agree to the clinical trial, and sign all relevant paperwork himself.
The director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, Charles Liu, led the surgical team whilst working in collaboration with the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC. They injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord just a few weeks after the accident. Liu explained, “Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but generally does very little to restore motor or sensory function. 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.”
Just two weeks after the surgery, Boesen began to show some signs of improvement, and within just three months he was able to feed himself, use his phone, write his name, operate a motorised wheelchair and hug his friends and family. The impressive new movement in his arms and hands means that he is able to begin to care for himself and live more independently.
Liu explained, “As of 90 days post-treatment, Kris has gained significant improvement in his motor function, up to two spinal cord levels. In Kris’ case, two spinal cord levels mean the difference between using your hands to brush your teeth, operate a computer or do other things you wouldn’t otherwise be able to do, so having this level of functional independence cannot be overstated.”
Boesen, who has a passion for repairing and driving sports cars, and was studying to be a broker at the time of the accident, said, “All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance. But if there’s a chance for me to walk again, then heck yeah! I want to do anything possible to do that.”
Boesens’s father has explained his joy at the results of the trial. He said, “So many things had to happen, and there were so many things that could have put up a roadblock. The people at Keck Medical Center of USC and elsewhere moved heaven and earth to get things done. There was never a moment through all of this when we didn’t think our son was getting world-class care.” Boesen will continue going for hospital check ups to make sure that his progress is on track into his more able future.
IMAGE CREDIT: Photo/Greg Iger