In 2016, Kris Boesen suffered a devastating cervical spine injury when he was just 20 years old. The injury happened after a serious car accident in Bakersfield, USA, which left him paralysed from the neck down. It was expected that he would remain paralysed for life.
However his parents were given new hope when they found out Kris could qualify for a clinical study at Keck Medical Centre, of the University of California (USC). The study involved injecting its patients with a treatment made from stem cells, directly into the cervical spinal cord.
This engineered stem cell therapy, known as AST-OPC1 has the ability to develop into and protect nerve cells in the central nervous system. Thus reversing the damage caused to spinal injury patients.
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.
- Charles Liu, Director of the USC Neurorestoration Center
From two weeks after surgery, Kris’s condition started to improve. After three months, he has regained motor and sensory function in his hands and arms; allowing him to use his phone, write, operate his wheelchair and generally get some independence back.
Of the 25 other patients included in this USC clinical trial, there were no serious side effects observed. MRI tests also showed that over 95% of patients displayed “tissue matrix” around the site of their injuries, suggesting that the injected stem cells were engrafting.
While neither Kris nor the other patients tested are able to walk yet, the success of this clinical study is a great example of how stem cells have the potential to improve the lives of those suffering with spinal cord injury.
To qualify for this particular Phase 1/2 clinical trial, patients must be 18-69 years old with a condition stable enough to receive an injection of engineered stem cells – 14-30 days post-injury.