New Cell Therapy Helps Paralysed Man Walks Again, Drive

In a rare recovery after suffering knife attack and consequent paralysis of lower part of his body, a paralysed man has been able to walk again after surgeons constructed a “nerve bridge” between two stumps of the damaged spinal column in a pioneering transplantation of cells taken from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord.

Bulgarian Darek Fidyka, 40, suffered a partial paralysis in the lower half after a knife attack in 2010, recovered after the tranplantation was done by Pawel Tabakow, consultant neurosurgeon at Wroclaw University Hospital, who led the Polish research team and Geoff Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, and his British research team.

The man was not only able to walk again using a metal frame to keep his balance but also managed to drive after the surgery that was carried out by surgeons in Poland in collaboration with Riasman team in London.

“When you cannot feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it is like you were born again,” he was quoted as saying in BBC.

To be published in the Cell Transplantation journal, the details will also be broadcast in the BBC One’s Panorama programme in the form of a documentary soon. Raisman said the treatment was “more impressive than man walking on the moon”.

The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells, or OECs, special cells that help us with the sense of smell. OECs act as pathway cells enabling nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed, said the research paper.

Initially, 100 micro-injections of OECs were made above and below the injury suffered by Fidyka during the two-year period of physiotherapy he had undergone but had shown no signs of recovery. Then, 4 thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across a 8-mm gap on the left side of the spinal cord.

Once the transplant operation was done, Fidyka was put on a five-hour exercise programme for five days a week at the Akson Neuro-Rehabilitation Centre in Wroclaw, Poland. Gradually, he began to notice movements in his left thigh that started putting on muscle and in three months time he was on recovery side.

It took another three-month period for Fidyka to take his first steps along parallel bars, using leg braces and the support of an aide. Two years later, he was able to walk outside the rehabilitation centre using a frame. Next, he recovered some bladder and bowel sensation and sexual function in his lower part of the body.

Pawel Tabakow of Wroclaw University Hospital said: “It’s amazing to see how regeneration of the spinal cord, something that was thought impossible for many years, is becoming a reality.”

9With inputs from IANS/EFE)

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