The Future of Mountain Biking: Hundreds or Thousands of Crippled People


Mike Vandeman


First steps on a long road
Michelle Lang, CanWest News Service
Published: Saturday, July 07, 2007
One evening this March, at a military hospital in northeast China,
paraplegic Jason McCue moved his legs.

It happened when the 31-year-old Calgarian was watching a movie with
his girlfriend and her cousin, the three of them lying on two beds
they had pushed together in his little hospital room.

The movement was just a slight shift, from left to right.

View Larger Image
Natalie Rae treats Jason McCue, a competitive mountain biker until he
broke his back in a cycling accident
Grant Black, Calgary Herald
More pictures: < Prev | Next >

McCue, who hadn't even felt a sensation in his legs since he broke his
back in a mountain biking accident nearly three years earlier,

And then he moved them again.

His girlfriend, Kristie Hall, grabbed her video camera.

This could be the breakthrough they had been hoping for: the beginning
of the end of his paralysis.

"I was freaking out," says Hall. "It was awesome. It was

The couple had made a long journey for this moment, raising thousands
of dollars and travelling to Shenyang, China for a controversial stem
cell treatment that they believe could help McCue walk again.

Such overseas therapies -- based on the promise of emerging stem cell
science -- are becoming increasingly popular with North Americans.
Patients say the $20,000 US treatments offer hope for spinal cord
injuries and other conditions that, so far, western medicine has
failed to provide.

"We see improvements in many, many patients," says Dr. Sean Hu,
co-founder of Beike Biotech, a China-based company that offers the

But North American experts are critical of the burgeoning number of
stem cell therapies for sale in China, arguing they provide no benefit
and even place patients at risk of infection.

While physicians in Canada say stem cells offer the promise of
eventual treatments for conditions like spinal cord injury, they argue
research into the cells has not yet advanced to that point.

"I'm very supportive of research in this area, but the way a lot of
companies in China are doing it is completely unacceptable to me,"
says Dr. Armin Curt, chair of spinal cord rehabilitation research at
ICORD, a University of B.C.-based research institute.

"They play with the patient without having sufficient and robust
pre-clinical data. They're playing and promising."

McCue is well aware of the concerns voiced by critics.

He stopped listening to doctors in Canada some time ago. The
soft-spoken former athlete has grown tired of hearing that there was
nothing more they could do for him, that he will spend the rest of his
life in a wheelchair.

He's putting his faith in a group of microscopic cells that are said
to be potent healers, no matter what the skeptics think.

"I believe in their system. I think there will be significant
results," he says.

- - -

For McCue, the road to Beike Biotech's hospital in China began on a
mountain trail in British Columbia on June 27, 2004.

He was warming up for a downhill biking competition at Panorama
mountain near Invermere, when he pulled up his front wheel, slid down
a make-shift ramp and was propelled off his bike.

McCue was a fearless athlete who counted rock climbing, snowboarding
and competitive mountain biking among his favourite sports. He had
wiped out on his bike more times than he could remember.
I am working on creating wildlife habitat that is off-limits to
humans ("pure habitat"). Want to help? (I spent the previous 8
years fighting auto dependence and road construction.)

Please don't put a cell phone next to any part of your body that you are fond of!
"Mike Vandeman" <[email protected]> spewed forth more utterly contemptable
bollocks in message news:[email protected]...

Never mind mikey boy, you'll be pretty old by now (you're obviously getting
mentally deficient too), shouldn't imagine you'll have to suffer us MTB
types for much longer, and as your shrivelled corpse is lowered into your
cold, damp grave I and doubtless many others will crack open a beer in
celebration of your utterly wasted life.


Andy H

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