A spinal cord injury (SCI) is devastating, changing a person’s life in an instant. Every year, around the world, between 250,000 and 500,000 people suffer a spinal cord injury. Most of these are caused by trauma to the spinal column, thereby affecting the spinal cord’s ability to send and receive messages from the brain to the body’s systems that control sensory, motor and autonomic function below the level of injury.
Currently, there is nothing that completely reverses SCI damage and most treatment is aimed at rehabilitation and empowering patients to lead as normal a life as possible under the circumstances. Improved treatment options are necessary both to improve patients’ overall quality of life, and to reduce associated healthcare costs.
In 2010, the Geron trial became not only the first clinical trial to be funded by the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM), but the first clinical trial in the world using embryonic stem cells.
By 2014, Asterias Biotherapeutics (now Lineage Cell Therapeutics Inc.), acquired the cell therapy assets of Geron and launched its Phase 1/2a clinical trial with the goal of determining the safety of the therapy and the optimal dose of cells to transplant into patients.
In 2016, Jake Javier became the fifth patient to participate in the revived Asterias trial. Regular readers of our blog will remember that Jake is the young man who broke his neck the day before he graduated high school, leaving him paralyzed from the upper chest down.
After enrolling in the CIRM-funded Asterias clinical trial, and receiving a transplant of ten million stem cells, Jake regained enough use of his arms and hands to be able to go to Cal Poly and start his life over.
This video highlights the struggles and challenges he faced in his first year, and his extraordinary spirit in overcoming them.
Today, Jake is set to graduate from Duke University with his master’s degree in Biomedical Engineering, with plans to help those impacted by neurological injuries or disease.
Watch the video below to learn more about Jake’s personal perspective on his clinical trial participation, the OPC1 clinical study, his future plans and his message to the SCI community.