WICHITA, Kansas – September 10, 2014
Ryan Benton, 28, was diagnosed with Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy (DMD) when he was three.
“It’s a progressive disease where the body lacks protein called dystrophen and dystrophen helps build and maintain muscles,” said Ryan Benton.
The disease is primarily found in boys and causes the muscles to weaken and lose function. It’s the reason Ryan has spent most of this life in a wheelchair.
Ryan and his family searched for 19 years before they found their first glimpse of hope in fighting the effects of the disease.
“You know we crossed are fingers and always prayed for something like this,” said Ryan.
That hope meant flying to South America, to visit Dr. Neil Riordan and his team at the Stem Cell Institute in Panama for treatments. There, Ryan was injected with mesenchymal stem cells that are found in umbilical cords.
“In Ryan’s case, they secrete molecules that stimulate his muscles to grow,” said Dr. Riordan. “He doesn’t have the right molecules to stimulate his muscles to grow. These cells have the most potent regenerative capacity of any tool in our tool box right now. I really look forward to opening the door for other therapies like it.”
Dr. Riordan says although this isn’t a cure, this procedure has shown promise in reversing the course of many diseases like muscular dystrophy. Ryan made seven such trips to South America for treatments, but it wasn’t enough to see the progress Dr. Riordan knew he was capable of. That’s why he, along with Dr. Van Strickland, an allergy and immunology specialist in Wichita, worked to get the FDA’s approval to bring Ryan’s treatments to Wichita.
“To use this type of cell is absolutely a first for the US,” said Dr. Rierdon.
Tuesday, Ryan started a trial officially called “Allogeneic transplantation of human umbilical cord mesenchymal stem cells for a single male patient with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.” Ryan is the only patient allowed to use this experimental treatment in the U at this point. According to the FDA agreement, he’ll receive 24 treatments in Wichita from Dr. Strickland over the next three years.
Ryan’s family says he’s living proof the treatments work.
“Seeing where he was before the treatments and seeing where he is now, you couldn’t believe it,” said his brother Blake. “With this treatment, if you continue at the rate that it’ll allow, there’s no reason that years down the road he shouldn’t be able to start a rehab process that allows him to start walking again. I know that’s a huge goal, but I’m not afraid to dream big.”
Ryan wants others to benefit the way he has.
“I want so badly for every parent, once their kid is diagnosed with a disease like mine, to be able to just go get treated,” he said. “It would be something that 20 years later the kid says to the parent, ‘Didn’t I have muscular dystrophy when I was younger?’ The parent would say ‘Ya, you did, but we got it treated.’ That would be amazing to me.”
Saturday the 13th, the Benton family will hold their 6th annual “Coming Together for a Cure” benefit concert. There will be stand up comedy, along with performances by classic rock, bluegrass and country music bands. The benefit is at 5280 N. Maize Road, Maize, KS. It starts at 6:30 p.m. and is $15 for advance tickets at Mel Hambelton Ford, $20 for tickets the day of the event. All proceeds goes to the Aidan Foundation, a non-profit organization founded by Dr. Riordan in 2004 to provide financial assistance for alternative therapies to people like Ryan. CLICK HERE for more.