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Personal Stories Showcased in ‘Miracle Cell’


Their stories are amazing: Cardiac patients who recover rapidly after their own stem cells are implanted into their hearts; people with spinal cord injuries who have some feeling restored in their bodies.

“Miracle Cell” showcases some of the doctors and patients involved in experimental trials in regenerative medicine, which aims to harness the natural ability of the body to renew and heal itself. The program, part of the PBS “Innovation” series, airs on Tuesday at 9 p.m. on MPT and WETA.

The idea of “Innovation” is to explain some of the breakthroughs of technology and how they affect our lives, producer Jared Lipworth said. The show’s strength “is in the personal stories we tell — whether it is of the people who are making things happen or those first affected by these innovations.”

In “Miracle Cell,” the personal stories include a harvest and transplant operation in Portugal that follows the progress of some patients of neurologist Carlos Lima.

Laura Dominguez, 19, broke her neck and was paralyzed from the chest down after a car accident in 2001. Several months after Lima performed stem-cell transplant surgery, she was able to move her foot.

Her progress is encouraging for doctors such as Steven Hinderer, a Detroit Medical Center neurologist who is seeking FDA approval to bring Lima’s therapy to the United States.

The stem-cell surgery is the first procedure he has seen in 25 years of clinical practice that has potential, he says in the documentary.

“I will be able to say to somebody with a spinal cord injury, yes, you will walk again, as opposed to telling them life is good from a wheelchair,” Hinderer says.

“Miracle Cell” also goes to Germany and Michigan and documents the stories of patients with damaged hearts who have had stem-cell surgeries.

“This is technology poised to revolutionize medicine on so many levels — but at the same time, there’s also a great deal that scientists don’t know yet,” said Lipworth. “This is something so experimental. It’s not an easy fix.”

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