On a Sunday morning in early 2016, Lucas Lindner was driving to get some donuts for his grandmother. A deer jumped in front of his truck. Lucas swerved to avoid it and crashed, suffering a severe spinal cord injury that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Lucas took part in a CIRM-funded clinical trial, becoming just the second person to get 10 million stem cells transplanted into his neck. Since then he has regained some use of his arms and hands. While some patients with spinal cord injuries do experience what is called “spontaneous” recovery, Lucas was not the only person in the trial who experienced an improvement. Asterias Biotherapeutics, the company behind the clinical trial, reported that four of the six patients in the trial “have recovered 2 or more motor levels on at least one side through 12 months, which is more than double the rates of recovery seen in both matched historical controls and published data in a similar population.”
Lucas says his improvement has changed his life.
“I was pretty skeptical after the accident, on being able to do anything, on what was going to happen. But regaining hand function alone gave me everything I pretty much needed or wanted back.”
Lucas can now type 40 words a minute, use a soldering iron and touch his pinkie to his thumb, something he couldn’t do after the accident.
In August of last year Lucas did something else he never imagined he would be able to do, he threw out the first pitch at a Milwaukee Brewers baseball game. At the time, he said “I’m blown away by the fact that I can pitch a ball again.”
Now Lucas has his sights set on something even more ambitious. He is going back to school to study IT.
“When I was in 3rd grade a teacher asked what I want to be and I said a neuro-computational engineer. Everyone laughed at me because no one knew what that meant. Now, after what happened to me, I want to be part of advancing the science, helping make injuries like mine a thing of the past.”
Even though he was one of the first people to take part in this clinical trial, Lucas doesn’t think of himself as a pioneer.
“The real pioneers are the scientists who came up with this therapy, who do it because they love it.”
You can read more about Lucas and other patients who’ve participated in CIRM-funded clinical trials in CIRM’s 2017 Annual Report on our website.
For more about Lucas and his story, watch this video below from Asterias.