Kris Bosen, a 21-year old man from Bakersfield, California, underwent a landmark stem cell therapy procedure which is allowing him to heal from a state of paralysis that he feared would be with him for his entire life. When Bosen was younger, he was in a severe car accident that left him permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, lead surgeon of the team did the transplant, said that this was a very experimental procedure, and referred to it as a “study.” Bosen was injected with an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells at the Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center in Downey, California. The dose was shot directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord.
“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,” Liu explained.
It has been nearly three years since Bosen received the treatment in April of 2016, and he has shown incredible progress during rehabilitation. It took only two weeks for Bosen to regain control and sensation in his arms and hands.
“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,” Liu told USC news.
Bosen hopes that this same treatment can help him walk someday as well.
“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,” Bosen says.
These types of stem cell treatments are offering new hope to people in similar positions, as more facilities are comfortable with attempting the procedure after seeing Bosen’s success. Last year, the Mayo Clinic opened up stem cell therapy trials for ten people suffering from traumatic spinal cord injuries.
One of the Mayo Clinic’s stem cell patients, Geoffrey Craigie of Grand Rapids, Michigan, just received his first stem cell treatment last month.
“I can feel to like the middle of my chest. So far so good, it’s pretty exciting,” Craigie told WZZM.
“You know, when I got hurt, I was in a pretty dark place, depressed, thinking this is the end of the world type of thing. It really isn’t, there’s a lot of support out there for people like me,” he added.
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According to a study conducted this year at the University of Minnesota Medical School, spinal cord stimulation using stem cells does, in fact, help to heal paralysis in many circumstances.