Man couldn’t walk for 10 years – but his own stem cells changed everything

fetal tissue stem cells bioethics

A breakthrough treatment using a patient’s own stem cells has given a British man a new lease on life. Roy Palmer of Gloucester, England has multiple sclerosis, or MS, and for ten years, was unable to control his legs. MS causes the immune system to destroy the protective covering of the body’s nerves, and therefore, stops communication between the brain and the body. It can impair vision, balance, and movement. However, Palmer is not only walking again — he is dancing his way through life, and a video of him “flossing” is making its way around social media.

An experimental treatment know as HSCT, or hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, is helping some people with MS to walk again. Palmer saw news of the treatment on a BBC show called Panorama, in which two people entered the hospital in wheelchairs and left the hospital walking. He and his wife immediately cried, and Palmer knew he wanted to try the new treatment.

“If they can have that done, on a trial, why can’t I have it done?” Palmer said in a video for BBC.




49-year-old Palmer knew that the treatment doesn’t work for everyone, and that it comes with risks, including increased risk for infection and infertility, but he decided it was worth a shot. He went to speak with his doctor about it, who referred him to the treatment program.

READ: Study: Adult stem cells can cut heart failure deaths in half

Like most successful stem cell transplants, it isn’t embryonic stem cells that are helping people. In this case, doctors take stem cells from the patient’s own body, then give the patient chemotherapy to kill the immune system. Then they “reboot” the immune system with the stem cells they removed. Within just two days of receiving his stem cells back into his body, Palmer could feel his left leg.




“[…] within two days I had feeling in my left leg of cramp, and that was, I just started crying,” he said. “Because I’ve never felt that in 10 years.”

Palmer calls it “a miracle.” and says he has been “given a second chance at life.” He has started volunteering at the local police station and is thrilled to be able to walk on the beach again.

“Little things like that, people do not realize what it means to me.,” he explained.

READ: Researchers herald greatest medical breakthrough of the age, deriving stem cells from human skin cells

According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, adult stem cells have been used to help over a million people so far, and there are over 3,500 ongoing or completed clinical trials involving adult stem cells. 73 conditions have been treated with the use of adult stem cells, including heart damage, stroke damage, sickle cell anemia, spinal cord injury, MS, juvenile diabetes, systemic lupus, multiple myeloma, and optic nerve disease. According to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, treatments using controversial embryonic stem cells have yet to reveal any validated success stories.

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