Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Mayo Clinic cautions the human trial is still in a very early stage, but the first patient to receive a new stem cell therapy for paralysis has experienced an amazing recovery.

53-year-old Chris Barr suffered a catastrophic spinal cord injury in a surfing accident in 2017, and after intensive rehabilitation, faced a lifetime with limited movement and feeling below his neck. That apparently made him the perfect candidate for a Mayo Clinic study led by Dr. Mohamad Bydon, who enrolled Barr in a phase 1 clinical trial to determine if the experimental therapy is safe. It involves removing stem cells from fat tissue in the patient’s body and expanding their number into a mega-dose that is then injected into the injured spinal cord.

"We want to intervene when the physical function has plateaued, so that we do not allow the intervention to take credit for early improvements that occur as part of the natural history with many spinal cord injuries. In this case, the patient was injected with stem cells nearly one year after his injury," Dr. Bydon says.

According to a Mayo Clinic news release and other materials, Dr. Bydon soon learned Barr was a “superresponder,” who almost immediately felt the effects of the treatment. After 18-months of intensive physical therapy, Barr is now walking again, and while he has not recovered to full strength, he is able to walk 2,200 feet in just over a half-hour.

The Mayo Clinic is stressing that Bar is a superresponder and among the 10 people enrolled in the trial, they have seen non-responders and moderate responders to the therapy. Dr. Bydon noted one of the objectives of the study is to precisely identify who will respond to the therapy and understand who patients have varying responses to the injections. Mayo is also clearly stating that further study is needed to verify the effectiveness of the treatment and it is uncertain if it will win FDA approval.

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