A chance meeting between two people involved in a terrible accident and a bold, successful rescue has resulted in the foundation of the WillWalk Foundation. Jared Dunten and Marty Butler were camping near the Rio Grande when Jared dove into the river and hit a sand bar head first, breaking his neck at the C4-5 vertebrae. Marty dove in, pulled Jared out of the water, and resuscitated him.
The accident left Jared paralyzed as a quadriplegic.
Jared refused to succumb to a life of paralysis. Both he and Marty decided to combine their love for art and their refusal to accept paralysis as a permanent condition to found WillWalk, a nonprofit organization based in Austin, TX, whose goal is to fund stem cell research dedicated to finding a cure for paralysis. The foundation is using art exhibits and sales to fund the novel stem cell research.
The first study WillWalk plans to fund will be conducted in conjunction with the Lone Star Paralysis Foundation, the University of Texas, University of Brackenridge in Austin, TX, the Brackenridge Brain and Spine Center, and the Keck Institute in New Jersey.
The first trials will involve 30 patients in Austin who will receive a combination of stem cell treatments for spinal cord injuries and lithium to promote neural growth at the injury site. The patients will also undergo extensive rehabilitation programs.
This research marks the beginning of a new era in stem cell and paralysis research. Since the stem cells to be used are derived from umbilical cord blood. Up until this groundbreaking study, stem cells have come from controversial sources, such as human fetuses. Until now, stem cells have not been used for treating patients with spinal cord injury and/or paralysis.
WillWalk plans to raise 3 million dollars to fund the stem cell trials to assist, improve the condition of, and finally, to cure patients with spinal cord injuries and paralysis.
(pic from flickr.com/photos/multiget)