The last thing he remembers was losing control of his car. The next time he was conscious, he was lying in a hospital bed, paralyzed from the neck down.
Kristopher Boesen's car lost control on a slippery road and rammed into a tree and later a lamp post.
After he got to the hospital and his parents showed up, the doctors had some devastating news for them. For the rest of his life, he might never function from the neck down.
His Difficult Plight Had A Silver Lining, Fortunately
He was a perfect candidate for a brilliant new medical technology called stem cell treatment.
Stem cells, in case you are new to this, are believed to have the ability to repair injured nervous tissue. They achieve this by replacing the damaged cells with healthy cells.
But there were no guarantees. However, Kris figured he had nothing more to lose and signed up for the procedure.
The doctor in charge, Dr. Liu, got to work. He began by injecting 10 million AST-OPC1 cells into his cervical spinal cord.
So you keep up, AST-OPC1 cells are gotten from donated eggs that have been fertilized in a petri dish.
Was This The Only Way?
Generally speaking, yes. There was no option that could promise better results.
Although untested, this was a worthwhile risk. According to Dr. Liu:
"Typically, spinal cord injury patients undergo surgery that stabilizes the spine but does very little to restore motor and sensory function."
But stem cell technology offered a hope that no existing treatment method could.
"… we are testing procedures 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."
Three weeks into the therapy, there were signs of improvement. In a month, Kris could write and pick up a phone.
In other words, he had significant improvements in his motor functions. This was an indication that his nervous system could get messages to the muscles to cause movement.
Kris was able to recover two spinal cord levels, and that changed his fortunes dramatically.
From being practically immobile, he was able to become independent.
His hopes were as high as they could be after seeing the improvements. He wanted to walk again.
What Stem Cell Technology Means For The Future
It's too early to make any big promises on what will become of Kris' condition. It might improve, it might not.
However, doctors are still looking into ways they can make him recover fully from this paralysis so he can finally move around without a wheelchair.
As it is, stem cell research is still ongoing. And its application extends far beyond treating paralysis. It can also help with diabetes, cancer, and even Parkinson's disease.