A man who was paralysed from the chest down following a knife attack can now walk using a frame, following a pioneering cell transplantation treatment developed by scientists at UCL and applied by surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital, Poland. The technique involved using specialist cells from the nose, called olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), in the spinal cord. These allow the nerve cells that give us a sense of smell to grow back when they are damaged.
The 38-year-old patient, Darek Fidyka, was paralysed after suffering stab wounds to the back in 2010, leaving an 8mm gap in his spinal cord. He described the ability to walk again using a frame as “an incredible feeling”, and added: “when you can’t feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it’s as if you were born again.”
Professor Geoff Raisman fron UCL says: It is immensely gratifying to see that years of research have now led to the development of a safe technique for transplanting cells into the spinal cord. I believe we stand on the threshold of a historic advance and that the continuation of our work will be of major benefit to mankind“.
The research is published in the journal Cell Transplantation. The UK research team was led by Professor Geoff Raisman, Chair of Neural Regeneration at the UCL Institute of Neurology.