A paralysed man has been able to walk again following cell transplant
A pioneering therapy involving transplanting cells from nasal cavity’s to a person’s spinal cord has helped a paralysed man walk again.
Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down following a knife attack in 2010, is now able to walk using a frame, reports the BBC.
The treatment is a world first and was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with scientists in London. Details of the research are published in the journal Cell Transplantation.
Mr Fidyka He said walking again – with the support of a frame – was “an incredible feeling”, adding: “When you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s like you were born again.”
The BBC reports that: ‘The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) – specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell. OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed. In the first of two operations, surgeons removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transplanted the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin strip of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with – about 500,000 cells. About 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury. Four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord. The scientists believe the OECs provided a pathway to enable fibres above and below the injury to reconnect, using the nerve grafts to bridge the gap in the cord.’
Dr Pawel Tabakow, consultant neurosurgeon at Wroclaw University Hospital, who led the Polish research team, said: “It’s amazing to see how regeneration of the spinal cord, something that was thought impossible for many years, is becoming a reality.”
The groundbreaking research was supported by the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) and the UK Stem Cell Foundation.
For more on this story you can watch Panorama’s To Walk Again is on Tuesday 21 October at 22:35 BST on BBC One.
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