A cell transplant has allowed a man who was paralyzed from the chest down to walk again after pioneering surgery that gives hope to millions.
Polish man Darek Fidyka, 38, had been left paralyzed from the chest down after a 2010 knife attack caused an 8mm gap in his spinal cord. An initial 13 months of rehabilitation followed by an additional 8-month program before the experimental treatment had not produced an improvement in his condition, researchers said.
But two years after the 2012 cell transplant he can walk with the aid of a Zimmer frame, also known as a walker. Scientists at University College London (UCL) developed the treatment, which saw olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose transplanted to Fidyka’s spinal cord. OECs are what allow the sense of smell to return when nerve cells in the nose are damaged. Surgeons at Wroclaw University in Poland led by Dr Pawel Tabakow injected the OECs above and below Fidyka’s spinal cord gap, then used nerve tissue taken from his ankle to act as a bridge for spinal nerves to grow across, UCL said.