How stem cell therapy helped UFC champ Matt Hughes triumph over traumatic brain injury
By Eric Stoffers
"As an athlete, I thought I knew the body well,” Matt said. “But I realized I know nothing when it comes to the brain. Yet if I’m any example, stem cell therapy offers hope to people like me.”
“Only recently, even walking down a set of stairs without grabbing hold of the handrail would be terrifying. Not only can I walk down hundreds of stairs without holding on, I even went paragliding on my last trip to Medellin for therapy,” he added
Forgive me if I vent for a moment, but I get a bit miffed when I hear people use terms like “vegetable” when referring to unfortunate victims of traumatic brain injuries.
That word extends beyond just jargon the general public uses. Physicians often use the term “persistent vegetative state” to describe a patient who’s either in a coma or may seem to be awake but is unresponsive to the outside world.
Can we stop using terms that imply any resemblance to vegetables when talking about patients who suffer from devastating brain injuries?
Then there’s “locked-in syndrome.” That’s a term that physicians use to refer to someone who demonstrates awareness, yet can’t move or communicate.
Patients with brain injuries like these certainly deserve more dignity – even when physicians tell their families that there’s not much hope for future recovery. But even if I can’t change the way the medical community refers to these patients, we can offer victims of serious brain injury more than just dignity – and even help them prove their doctors wrong.
As CEO of BioXcellerator, a leading global stem cell therapy and research organization, my team and I know first-hand how new innovative treatments offer more hope to more patients with brain injuries than ever thought possible.
Case in point: Matt Hughes – a UFC fighter and mixed martial artist who was the victim of serious brain trauma. Thanks to stem cell therapy, he’s made remarkable progress and now leads a life that’s far more active than you’d expect from any carrot, rutabaga, or head of lettuce.
“Too good to be true?” Not at all.
Matt Hughes enjoyed remarkable success as a two-time UFC champion and was inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. He’s also known as one of the best MMA fighters in the history of the sport.
In June of 2017, the truck Matt was driving was struck by an oncoming train. After he was airlifted to a nearby hospital, he remained in a coma for 19 days and then regained some consciousness. As Matt said, “According to my MRI, I should have never woken up from my coma. I should be dead or have what they call locked-in syndrome.”
Matt had suffered a stage-three axonal brain injury – the most severe type. Because Matt’s neurons were damaged, they could not send signals from the brain that would allow him to move, feel his body, or remember even recent events.
Although Matt did recover some function over the next few months thanks to speech, physical, and occupational therapy, his movement and speech ability improved. But Matt said that “just walking and talking” wasn’t enough progress.
One of Matt’s friends, Stephanie Mayfield, had heard about BioXcellerator stem cell therapy and the potential it had to make a big difference in treating severe traumatic brain injuries likes Matt’s, but still had doubts.
“I thought it seemed too good to be true,” Stephanie explained. “Before I told Matt, I had asked a friend who is a molecular biologist about stem cell therapy. At first, he said I shouldn’t get my hopes up. But when my friend looked into it, he discovered that BioXcellerator’s clinic was in Colombia. That’s when he got excited and told me that Matt should definitely look into it.”
“I shared the news with Matt,” Stephanie recalls, “And his first reaction was ‘when are we leaving?’”
More advanced stem cell therapy with BioXcellerator
I can’t be certain why Stephanie’s molecular biologist friend changed his mind about the potential of stem cell therapy, but I have a hunch that he knew that stem cell therapy in the U.S. isn’t nearly as effective because U.S. clinics don’t infuse patients with enough stem cells, nor use cells with the highest possible potency.
But outside the U.S., at clinics like BioXcellerator in Medellin, Colombia, it’s a different story.
Stem cell therapy works because the body uses stem cells to heal itself and repair damage. Stem cells are a special type of cell, created in bone marrow, that can become any type of cell.
For example, if you get a burn, your body uses stem cells to create new skin cells. Or if you need to fight an infection, your body uses stem cells to create new immune cells. Indeed, stem cells are the body’s natural “repair kit.”
An infusion of millions of additional high-potency stem cells gives the body even more ability to regenerate damaged cells, such as creating new neurons to replace those damaged after Matt’s accident.
At BioXcellerator, our research team has developed a proprietary process to treat patients with stem cells that have more potency than available at U.S. clinics.
We start with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from donated umbilical cords and select the healthiest one percent of all donors. Then we test the cells to identify the ones with biological markers that indicate high potency, and then purify and reproduce them into infusions of millions of these highly potent stem cells.
From comatose to paragliding: “This is not as good as it’s going to get.”
Over the course of several treatments, Matt’s progress has been remarkable – especially for someone many had thought would never walk or talk again.
“As an athlete, I thought I knew the body well,” Matt said. “But I realized I know nothing when it comes to the brain. Yet if I’m any example, stem cell therapy offers hope to people like me.”
“Only recently, even walking down a set of stairs without grabbing hold of the handrail would be terrifying. Not only can I walk down hundreds of stairs without holding on, I even went paragliding on my last trip to Medellin for therapy,” he added.
Matt’s friend Stephanie says his memory has definitely improved.
“Before treatment, if I asked Matt where he went to lunch, he’d think about it, yet couldn’t remember anything. Now if I ask, he can tell me where went, what he ate, and who he talked to. It’s little things like that – just remembering what happened yesterday – that have been huge,” she explained.
Matt’s advice to anyone who suffers a traumatic brain injury like his is to “Get help immediately. Stick to your therapy. Try and surround yourself with supportive people. This injury will not fix itself over time. You have to challenge yourself daily.”
And Matt looks forward to even more progress in the months and years ahead.
“Thank you BioXcellerator for treating me and igniting a fire within me,” he said. “My story is not over. This is just the beginning. This is not as good as it is going to get.”
With that inspiration and passion, Matt’s hardly a “vegetable.” And the same holds true for hundreds of other patients we’ve successfully treated for even the most serious of traumatic brain injuries.
If you’re interested in learning more about advanced stem cell therapy and determining if stem cell therapy is right for you.