A Huge First Step in Reversing Paralysis

Medicine is advancing at a stunning rate. It’s exciting if you’re an investor, because you can not only make huge profits, you can support innovations that have real, tangible effects on the health, life spans and quality of life for people all over the world.

For example, while there’s no investment opportunity yet, a team of Polish surgeons may have just taken the first step in reversing paralysis. These are the types of stories I keep on my radar so I can let the subscribers to my Breakthrough Technology Alert newsletter know how to profit from them when the time is right. And that’s especially true for what I call “David and Goliath” investments…

David and Goliath stories can make for incredible investments. Anytime you have a little guy versus big guy, the crowd bets on the big guy. But that can be a mistake. We can make a lot of money betting on the little guy.

by this time next year, [Elon Musk] will be on track to selling Teslas at a rate of 100,000 per year.

Take, for example, Elon Musk and Tesla. Many people laughed at him when he entered the electric car business. Yet by this time next year, he will be on track to selling Teslas at a rate of 100,000 per year. Today, he looks like a genius.

I love stories like that. I like to find small unknown companies, investigate them and then recommend the best opportunities to subscribers of Breakthrough Technology Alert. I know that the worlds of science and technology are opening up exciting new plays for investors every day.

One reason I’m attracted to David and Goliath stories is that I lived my own “little guy beating the giant” story early in my career.

Back in the 1970s, I was a reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle newspaper in Rochester, New York.

At the time, I relaxed on my days off by flying a Piper Cherokee single-engine airplane, a nice little four-seater with a low wing and a 150 horsepower engine.

I learned to fly as a teenager, and piloting has always been a passion. I enjoyed going up for an hour or two and flying over the beautiful coastline of Lake Ontario or deep into the Genesee River Valley south of the city.

Then one day, I flew over an area just outside the city and looked down to see a large lot full of huge silver boxes. I was mystified and decided to find out what they were. Upon landing, I drove to the site and saw the headquarters of a company called Stirling Homex.

I was a financial reporter for the Democrat and Chronicle, so I decided to find out more about the company. It turned out that Stirling Homex built houses on assembly lines like automobiles. They built modules that could be assembled on a site as townhouses. And they were a very hot stock on the NYSE.

But the more I looked into Homex, the more those boxes didn’t make sense to me. They were modules the company had built, but there were hundreds of them accumulating behind the factory. It turned out that the company was cooking its books — building module after module each day on its assembly line and touting itself as the innovative General Motors of housing, but rarely selling any of them. They just kept stacking up in that lot. Meanwhile, they kept issuing more shares of stock and raking in the proceeds.

With the help of a colleague, we broke the truth on Homex. When all was said and done, the mighty Stirling Homex Corp. was bankrupt, people were indicted and the Stirling brothers escaped to the Bahamas. Eventually, the top five officers of the company were convicted of securities and mail fraud and conspiracy in federal court.

When my colleague and I were deeply involved in the investigation and spending a lot of time on it, others around us were skeptical that two reporters from a medium-sized daily newspaper could break through the wall of lies and lawyers. We were up against a powerful Goliath. But we did it.

So I like underdogs. I know they can make breakthroughs. It doesn’t matter to me if they’re fighting an unethical company or a previously incurable problem like paralysis.

David Nicholls founded the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) after his son Daniel was paralyzed in a diving accident.

David promised his son he wouldn’t stop until Daniel could walk again.

I can’t imagine choosing a tougher Goliath than a spinal cord break. The prognosis is hopeless.

That wasn’t good enough for David. The NSIF and the U.K. Stem Cell Foundation funded research by Geoffrey Raisman, a professor in the Institute of Neurology at the University College London, in the U.K.

Based on Raisman’s research, Polish surgeons have recently helped a paralyzed man walk again.

The key to the breakthrough was to harvest olfactory ensheathing cells from a patient’s brain. The cells are part of the sense of smell and were identified by Raisman in 1985.

These neurons are unlike other central nervous system cells in an important way: They continuously regenerate.

When they regenerate, they reach out fibers called axons to connect to the main olfactory centers of the brain. This is the equivalent of plugging a cable into the body’s network.

The ability to regenerate and reconnect makes olfactory ensheathing cells fascinating candidates for grafting to the site of a spinal cord injury in a paralyzed person.

As they waited for any reaction, the patient’s atrophied thigh muscles began to grow.

Researchers theorized that the cells could help repopulate a spinal cord break and reconnect the broken links in the neural network.

So two years ago in Wroclaw, Poland, doctors attempted to repair the spinal cord of a man who had been stabbed in the back and who had lost his ability to walk.

He underwent brain surgery to harvest cells from the olfactory center of his brain, which were then grown in culture and finally injected around the injury, along with some nerve tissue removed from his ankle to bridge the gap.

As they waited for any reaction, the patient’s atrophied thigh muscles began to grow. Six months later, he began to walk with the assistance of leg braces. Today, he can walk with support.

Raisman says: “What we’ve done is establish a principle — nerve fibers can grow back and restore function, provided we give them a bridge. To me, this is more impressive than a man walking on the moon. I believe this is the moment when paralysis can be reversed.”

That’s just one more example that there’s no Goliath that can’t be conquered.

We live in a new golden age of medicine. It’s an exciting time for investors who are aware of what’s happening. The changes we are seeing aren’t just marginal improvements on existing technology. They are paradigm-shifting disruptive technologies that will help people live longer and open the door for investment gains.

Stephen Petranek
for The Daily Reckoning

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Stephen Petranek

Stephen Petranek’s career of over 40 years in the publishing world is marked by numerous prizes and awards for excellent writing on science, nature, technology, politics, economics and more. He has been editor-in-chief of the Miami Herald’s prestigious Sunday magazine, Tropic, and has covered a wide range of topics for Time Inc.’s Life magazine. His...

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