Paralysed man walks again after stem cell therapy

Chis Barr was left paralysed from the neck down after sustaining spinal cord injuries in a surfing accident. That is, until he was offered to participate in a life-changing stem cell therapy study.

At first Chris was given a 95-97% chance of never regaining movement below his neck, leaving him feeling hopeless. A year’s worth of physical therapy sessions helped Chris to regain some movement in toes and hands, but his progress stopped shortly after. This was when he received a call from Dr Mohamad Bydon of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Dr Bydon, a spinal cord researcher, told Chris about a unique study at the Mayo Clinic where patients’ own fat tissue stem cells would be isolated through liposuction at the waist, then injected into their spinal cords. Chris would be one of 10 patients enrolled onto the study.

Despite initial uncertainties, Chris and his wife Debbie were determined to do all that they could to improve Chris’s condition.

You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose…I mean, this is exactly why I stuck around was to do something. Listen — you know, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to participate in this.

After Dr Bydon performed the stem cell therapy on Chris’s spinal cord, it wasn’t long before he noticed feeling in his legs, arms and surprisingly started to walk for consistent intervals.

While Dr Bydon’s research at the Mayo Clinic is in early Phase I stage and patient responses have varied, Chris’s story highlights that it’s an exciting step towards curing paralysis and spinal cord injury.