13 June 2010

Area man trying to raise funds for surgery to restore ability to walk

By JILL WHALEN (Staff Writer)

Published: June 12, 2010

Brian Lang wants to walk again.

Lang lost the use of his legs to multiple sclerosis a few years ago, and is hoping stem cell treatment will help him to his feet again.

The Hazle Township man has been researching the procedure and said it has shown "fantastic success" for others with multiple sclerosis. The treatment uses stem cells to replace or repair a patient's damaged cells or tissues.

"It basically turns back the body to what it was like when you were born," he said. The problem is the procedure is not offered in the United States, and it's not covered by insurance, putting it out of reach for Lang. He wants to somehow raise money for the operation - and is hoping some will hear his story and want to help.

Lang has been in a wheelchair since 2005, a few years after his multiple sclerosis was diagnosed. He also tested positive for Lyme disease, which is spread through deer tick bites.

Until that time, he was active. Growing up on a farm outside Shickshinny, he has always loved the outdoors and the activities it has to offer. When he wasn't working, he hunted, went snow-tubing and hiked.

He now relies on health aids to help him with everyday tasks like getting out of bed. And while his motorized wheelchair gets him around, it doesn't compare to the freedom of being able to walk unassisted.

"It was tough," he said of losing his independence and mobility.

Lang goes to physical therapy several times each week, and is able to stand with some assistance.

"My doctor told me, 'With your determination, you probably will walk again,'" Lang said.

Lang knows he will, too.

"I know it's possible," he said. "I won't stop trying until I walk again. When there's a will, there's a way."

Lang said he's willing to travel to Europe or China for the procedure, because it could be years until stem cell treatment is approved in the United States.

According to Dr. David Owens and Dr. Naomi Kleitman, program directors at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, research on stem cell therapy is ongoing.

"In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration requires evidence that a medical approach is both safe and effective before it approves its use," Owens said. "Safety and efficacy are demonstrated by data acquired through clinical trials. Recently in the United States, a clinical trial has been proceeding that is evaluating the safety of transplanted neural stem cells in patients with a type of motor neuron disease known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis."

"The promise of both embryonic and adult stem cells for use in future therapies is exciting, but significant technical hurdles remain that will only be overcome through years of intensive research," Kleitman added, noting the national institute supports a diverse array of stem cell research.

Although it's not yet approved in the United States, Lang said it has been done successfully overseas. He said the procedure, like every medical procedure, carries some risk.

Anyone wishing to help Lang can contact him at artic11@verizon.net or Brian Lang, 1000 W. 28th St., Hazlewood Apartments, Apt. 103, Hazle Township, PA 18202.


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