Bioethics Blogs

Embryonic stem cells treatment is used to treat spinal cord injury with apparent success

Doctors are careful not to predict Boesen’s future progress

Keck Medical Centre of the University of Southern California (USC, United States) announced that a team of doctors from the Center became the first in California to inject an experimental treatment made from stem cells, AST-OPC1, into the damaged cervical spine of Kris Boesen, a recently paralysed 21-year-old man, as part of a multicentre clinical trial (see HERE). Leading the surgical team, and working in collaboration with Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center and Keck Medicine, Charles Liu, director of the USC Neurorestoration Center, injected an experimental dose of 10 million AST-OPC1 cells directly into Boesen’s cervical spinal cord in early April. Two weeks after the surgery, Boesen began to show signs of improvement . Three months later, he is able to feed himself, use his mobile phone, write his name, operate a motorised wheelchair and hug his friends and family. Improved sensation and movement in both arms and hands also makes it easier for him to take care of himself, and to imagine a life lived more independently. AST-OPC1 cells are made from embryonic stem cells by carefully converting them into oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs), which are cells found in the brain and spinal cord that support the healthy functioning of nerve cells.  Doctors are careful not to predict Boesen’s future progress, see original article in https://stemcell.usc.edu/2016/09/07/paralyzed-man-regains-use-of-arms-and-hands-after-experimental-stem-cell-therapy-at-keck-hospital-of-usc/.

Bioethical assessment.

From a bioethical point of view, it should not be forgotten that embryonic stem cells have been used in these experiments, which adds an unquestionable ethical difficulty.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.