On March 6, 2016, Kristopher Boesen was driving down a California road when he lost control of his car. The vehicle swerved back and forth before ramping off the road, slamming into a tree, and into a telephone pole. Kris, who was about to turn 21, suffered a traumatic . When he woke up in the hospital, he was paralyzed from the neck down; his life was forever changed.
Doctors warned Kris’ parents, Rodney and Annette Boesen, that he may be permanently . He would most likely never walk, feed, or bathe himself ever again. He would need around-the-clock care and constant assistance with most of life’s tasks.
And yet, there was still hope.
Doctors at the University of Southern California told his parents about an experimental procedure and clinical study that, under the best of scenarios, may help a paralysis patient regain some motor control. To their relief, Kris was a candidate.
The procedure involved stem cells that could repair some of the damage and allow Kris to reclaim some of his former independence.
The procedure was performed at Keck Medical Center at USC by Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, in collaboration with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine of USC.
Dr. Liu injected an experimental dose of 10 million stem cells directly into Kris’ spinal cord at the neck. The stem cells used were a certain type called AST-OPC1 cells, which come from donated human eggs that have been fertilized in a lab.
Dr. Liu explained that: “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.”
Basically, there was very little that could be done for patients who were paralyzed from the neck down in the past. The best doctors could do was repair the bone loss in order to prevent further damage. Now, using stem cells, doctors can repair the damage that was done to the nerves and their ability to transmit messages.
This is accomplished because stem cells have two important characteristics. First, the cells can quickly reproduce through cellular division. Second, stem cells are unspecialized, meaning they can turn themselves into almost any type of other human cell; a stem cell has the potential to convert itself into a blood cell, a muscle cell, a kidney cell, or, in this case, a nerve cell.
Two weeks after the procedure, Kris was already showing signs of improvement. After two months, he was able to write his name, feed himself, use his cell phone, operate an electric wheelchair, and hug his family.
Kris had done something that nobody was really sure was possible; he regained significant improvement in his motor functions. His spinal cord and his brain, which were once nearly severed from each other, were now transmitting information from the brain to different muscle groups.
Dr. Liu explained, “As of 90 days post-treatment, Kris [had] 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.”
Kris’ case has since become a marvel of science, not only for its amazing results but also for the speed at which the changes came. One moment he was told that he would never move from the neck down again. Two months later, he was recovering in a way that no other spinal patient ever has.
“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,” Kris said about his progress and the potential of further improvements.
Doctors can’t predict any future changes or promise Kris that his condition will continue to improve, but they can keep at it.
So far, the stem cells have done amazing things to help Kris, and to him, that’s enough for now.
Doctors are going to continue experimenting with stem cells in hopes of changing not just spinal surgery, but all of medicine forever. Their ultimate goal is to use stem cells to repair damaged tissue, regrow failed organs, and restore the necessary organ in the human body. Whether this is possible is yet to be seen, but thanks to Kris’ bravery, there is hope for millions of potential stem cell patients.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
Paralysis is a serious injury with serious repercussions for the patient and their family. Stem cell research is experimental and not available everywhere, but that doesn’t mean that there is no hope of recovery for spinal patients. If you or a loved one has suffered a paralysis-causing injury in an accident, you should not delay contacting a personal injury attorney. Treatment of spinal cord injuries can be very expensive and stressful without having to worry about how it will all be paid for. Let us help.
Contact a spinal injury attorney who understands the implications of these injuries and how to recover the most damages possible. Estimating the compensation that a paralyzed victim deserves from a negligent party can be complicated, often requiring the skill of financial experts, medical professionals, and other specialists. At the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we have access to these trusted resources and will use them to better shape your case. To speak with an experienced attorney, contact our office at 727-451-6900 or .