Man walks again after stem cell treatment. Mayo Clinic reports remarkable response to spinal stem cell treatment
The Mayo clinic reports that Chris Barr is back to walking and enjoying life on two feet after paralysis.
It was only three years ago, in 2017, that 53 year old Chris Barr was told, following a surfing accident, that this physically fit and able man would never walk again. After suffering a traumatic spinal cord injury he was informed that there was a 95 to 97% chance that he would never feel anything below the neck again, that everyday and forever he would have to sit still, not move, not be able to reach out to his wife Debbie, or even scratch his own nose. He would also lose all bowel and bladder sensation.‘I can’t say it enough times that the stem cell regimen and protocol offers real hope’.
Spinal cord injury is a devastating condition with extremely limited treatment options into restoring any function. The spinal cord itself is an extension of the brain and is made up of a thick bundle of nerves. The nerves carry messages from our brain to the rest of our body. These messages then help us to move , to feel pressure, and control vital functions such as breathing, blood pressure, bladder and bowel control. When the spinal cord is damaged the communication between the brain and the rest of the body is disrupted, resulting in the loss of movement and sensation from below the level of injury. Damage to the spinal cord can be caused by trauma like an accident but also from infection or disease.
When the news was delivered, Chris sought permission from his wife to end his own life. She agreed but asked him to hold on longer and continue with the route of physical therapy and to wait to see if things might improve.
Chris agreed and at first there were slow but small gains ‘a toe here’, ‘a feeling there’, but then progress slowed and no improvements seemed to be coming. Months of very limited progress seemed to come to an abrupt end.
It was around this time that Chris received the life changing phone call.
Dr Mohammad Bydon, a neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, informed Chris of a new clinical trial to treat patients with paralysis from spinal cord injury and that if he agreed he would be patient no 1 out of 10.
‘I mean this is exactly why I stuck around. it was to do something. I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to participate in this.’
Dr Mohammad Bydon was offering something Chris had been waiting so desperately for since his life altering accident – hope. He had no anxiety about participating and felt he had ‘nothing to lose’.
The procedure was phase 1 of a trial using Autologous Adipose Tissue – a regenerative approach and potentially transformative in restoring form and function. This meant taking stem cells from his own body fat from the stomach, expanding the cells in the lab, and then injecting them into the lumbar part of his spine. ‘It was fast. I felt it going in my legs and I had felt nothing there for a year!’.
Within a short amount of time, this man who thought he was set to spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair began to regain the feeling in his legs. He experienced no adverse side effects related to the injections and soon saw an improvement in both motor and sensory function.
Early findings in this trial are extremely optimistic and further study is needed to identify those who may benefit from such procedures. Chris was definitely a ‘super responder’ and results varied for the other 10 patients.
Today Barr is back to walking and can begin to enjoy life again on two legs and now new therapies are on the way for the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer spinal cord injuries every year.
Dr Bydon knows that these trials are the first step in developing a breakthrough for these patients, ‘The hope is that we will have novel treatments for spinal cord injuries in the coming years that will be different from what we have today. There will be therapies that do not rely upon supportive care, but therapies that rely on science to create a regenerative process for the spinal cord’.
Stem cell treatment is definitely forging the way in a potential breakthrough in the emerging field of regenerative medicine but for Chris Barr the results have been life changing and life affirming , ‘It feels nice to stand’.