Dr. Donald Leslie, medical director at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, has high hopes.
"We want to cure paralysis," he said. "We want to stop spinal cord injury. How incredible would that be?"
Leslie's mission has begun with T.J. Atchinson, the first step in research that he believes could lead to many steps for those who were told they would never walk again. Atchinson, 21, was the first human with a spinal cord injury to undergo embryonic stem cell therapy.
The athletic college student's life took a hard turn in September when he was home from the University of Alabama visiting his family in Chatom and lost control of his car. Even before he was cut loose from the vehicle, he knew something was wrong.
"I realized I couldn't feel from about here down," nursing student Atchinson said, pointing to his waist. "When I got to the hospital, they said I would never walk again."
The accident took place on the birthday of Christopher Reeves, the actor who had fought hard for embryonic stem-cell therapy but never lived to receive it. Atchinson was still accepting the news about his situation when doctors told him he'd be a great candidate for the therapy.