A man who was paralyzed from the neck down can now operate his wheelchair and hug his family.
Kristopher Boesen, who became paralyzed after a car crash, has become the first person in California to receive an experimental treatment made from stem cells, according to a release by Keck Medical Center at University of Southern California. It has allowed him to use his arms and hands once again.
The treatment is an injection that consists of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells, which are derived from embryonic stem cells. AST-OPC1 helps support the healthy functioning of nerve cells.
In early April, a team at Keck Medical Center injected the treatment into Boesen’s damaged cervical spine. Three months later, he was able to do tasks like write his name.
“I couldn’t drink, 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” Boesen tells KIDY Fox San Angelo, a Fox affiliate in Texas. “And now, after the stem cell surgery, I’m able to live my life.”
Since the injection, doctors have reviewed Boesen’s progress four different times, including the most recent that was 90 days after the surgery. He is set to undergo three more assessments.
Boesen’s success stems from strength.
On March 6, just before his twenty-first birthday, Boesen lost control of his car while driving on a wet road in Bakersfield, California. He hit a tree and then slammed into a telephone pole, leaving him with severe injuries to his spine.
His parents were told he’d be paralyzed from the neck down, but they were also told that he qualified for a clinical study that could help.
To participate, Boesen had to give voice confirmation that he wanted to be part of the study. The problem was that at the time, Boesen was using a ventilator to breath, and was unable to speak without breathing assistance, according to the release.
Through sheer desire, and with help from a respiratory care team, Boesen weaned himself off the ventilator in five days — a process that usually takes patients three weeks to complete. Boesen told Keck:
“All I’ve wanted from the beginning was a fighting chance.”