The world is reacting today to the death of Superman star Christopher Reeve who died Sunday at the age of 52. Paralyzed nine years ago in a horse-riding accident, he turned personal tragedy into a highly publicized crusade for stem-cell research, something he truly believed would help him walk again. He spoke about the importance of this just last week in Chicago.
"Who are we if we don't use our best efforts and available technology to do something," says Reeve.
Reeve's injury was the worst possible, close to the neck, a constant threat to his survival. But neuro-scientist Paul Reier made multiple house calls to Reeve's home during his recovery to try out new techniques to strengthen the actor's diaphragm, which eventually helped him get off the ventilator. Reier says his legacy is not just that he brought national attention to spinal cord injuries, but that he brought together many different scientists to collaborate on new therapies, giving millions of patients hope for the future.
"He just saw strengths in many areas, and when it came time to pull things together he also saw where there were hurdles that had to be dealt with politically and otherwise, so he was savvy in so many things that he helped moved the field forward because of that," says Dr. Paul Reier, neuro-scientist at the University of Florida.
"Around the fifth year he called me. He was excited he was moving his left index finger and then he was standing in the swimming pool and he could lift five pound weights with his legs," says Dr. Wise Young, of Rutgers University.
Dr. Young says recent experiments using injections of nerve cells and hormones have gotten rats with spinal injuries to walk again and that human trials could start soon. So today, while there are flowers at Christopher Reeve's star on the Hollywood walk of fame, his friends and supporters in congress are pressing for the passage of a law in his name that would provide 300 million dollars for spinal cord research.