Paralyzed man regains use of arms, hands after experimental stem cell procedure

A Bakersfield, California 21-year old says he can move his paralyzed arms and hands after undergoing an experimental stem cell surgery.

Kris Boesen's life radically changed March 6th, when his car fishtailed on a wet road, hit a tree and slammed into a telephone pole, leaving the now-21 year old with a severe spinal cord injury. His doctors told him there a good chance he'd be paralyzed from the neck down.

“I couldn't drink,” says Kris Boesen. “I couldn't feed myself. I couldn't text or, pretty much, do anything. I was basically just existing. I wasn't really living my life."

But Boesen got a huge break, when he qualified for a pioneering stem cell surgery at Keck Medical Center of the University of Southern California. 

There were no guarantees, but there was a chance the experimental procedure could restore some sensation and function is his arms and hands.

His father Rodney Boesen says Kris jumped at the chance to try the surgery.

"He was extremely excited about having an opportunity to try to do something to get better than he was at that point,” his father says.

The surgery had to be performed between 2 weeks and 30 days of Kris Boesen’s injury.

In early April, neurosurgeon Charles Liu and his team carefully injected 10 million stem cells known AST-OPC1 cells directly into Kris' damaged cervical spinal cord. 

This is an early stage clinical trial, looking at whether the cells are safe and effective, but it could have huge implications for people with spinal cord injuries.

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

Within two weeks, Kris began to show of improvement, according to doctors.

Now, three months later, he's back home in Bakersfield and able to feed himself, use his cellphone, and operate his motorized wheelchair. 

According to a news release from USC, he can write his name and hug his family and friends.

Boesen says he’s grateful for the team that gave him this opportunity.

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

Boesen has been evaluated 4 times since his procedure. 

He will be monitored every few months.

Six centers around the country are taking part in the AST-OPC1 stem cell trial.  To qualify, patients must be between the ages of 18 and 69 and be stable enough to undergo surgery between 14 and 30 days after sustaining their spinal cord injury,

 

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