Oligodendrocyte progenitor cells repair damaged spine in humans in clinical trial in a breakthrough for regenerative medicine

Asterias Biotherapeutics (NYSE: AST) recently announced ground-breaking results restoring function to patients with spinal injuries from a Phase 1 clinical trial that were nothing short of astounding.

AST’s technology comes from one of the leading companies in regenerative medicine, BioTime, Inc., (NYSE: BTX) which spun off Asterias Biotherapeutics a few years ago and is also its largest shareholder. It is also worth pointing out that BioTime’s CEO, Dr. Michael West, is one of the world’s leading experts in regenerative and stem cell research

Asterias Biotherapeutics is a leading biotechnology company in the emerging field of regenerative medicine. The company’s proprietary cell therapy programs are based on its immunotherapy and pluripotent stem cell platform technologies. Asterias is presently focused on advancing three clinical-stage programs which have the potential to address areas of very high unmet medical need in the fields of oncology and neurology.

Dr Michael West will use regenerative stem cell medicine to solve the primary diseases of aging.

As part of a multi-center trial, doctors at Keck Medical Center at the University of Southern California, employing Asterias Biotherapeutics’ AST-OPC1 experimental treatment, injected 10 million oligodendrocyte progenitor cells (OPCs) into the damaged spine of Kristopher (Kris) Boesen a 21 year-old California man who was paralyzed from the neck down after suffering a traumatic cervical spine injury in an automobile accident on March 6th, 2016.

Being that this was an experimental treatment, doctors at Keck first needed to obtain Kris’ verbal permission before they could inject these stem cells into his cervical spine. Research had shown that the treatment is most effective when administered as quickly as possible after the patient suffers a catastrophic, spinal injury. But unfortunately for Kris, because of his paralysis, he was unable to give his doctors the requisite go-ahead, thus delaying his treatment for almost a month during which time his medical team made him undergo a very intensive regimen of physical therapy that finally enabled him to mumble his consent.

Furthermore, Kris’ treatment under this clinical trial program was right in the middle of a dose escalating study, which meant that his spine could only be injected with 10 million OPCs as opposed to the 20 million OPCs that had been observed in pre-clinical studies to be the optimal dose for maximum therapeutic benefit.

In spite of these setbacks, the remarkable part of Kris’ story is that in late April, just 2 weeks after receiving the 10 million dose of OPC, he started to show signs of improvement. And barely 2 months after his experimental treatment, Kris was able to feed himself, write his name, use his cell phone, became mobile with the help of a motorized wheelchair and a whole lot more…like, lifting weights and moving his toes.