In a world first treatment, a paralysed man has been made able to walk again through a pioneering treatment that saw cells from his nasal cavity transplanted into his spinal cord.
Surgeons in Poland, in collaboration with a team of scientists from University College London, successfully treated 40-year old Darek Fidyka, who had been left unable to walk after being stabbed repeatedly in the back in 2010.
The process uses olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), those that form part of the sense of smell and are unique in their ability to rapidly renew and repair themselves. Surgeons removed a bulb of Fidyka's OECs, growing them in a culture, before using 100 microinjections to place them above and below the damaged area of the his spinal cord. Using the patient's own OEC bulb, there was no fear of rejection, or need for immunosuppressive drugs. Along with some nerve tissue from Fidyka's ankle, the severed sections of the spinal cord have been bridged.
Now, following two years of intense physiotherapy, Fidyka can walk with a frame -- something that would never have been achievable prior to the surgery. He's even beginning to regain sensation in his bowel and bladder, with sexual functions slowly improving too.