A man who was completely paralyzed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough, developed by Professor Geoffrey Raisman of University College London’s institute of neurology, the Guardian reported.
Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a paralyzed Bulgarian, to provide pathways along which nerve tissue was able to grow along his spinal cord.
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The 38-year-old Fidyka, who was injured four years ago, is the first person in the world to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves. Fidyka can now walk with a frame and has resumed an independent life, including driving a car.
Professor Raisman said: “We believe that this procedure is the breakthrough which, as it is further developed, will result in a historic change in the currently hopeless outlook for people disabled by spinal cord injury.”
The surgery was performed by a Polish team led by one of the world’s top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical University. It transplanted olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose to the spinal cord. These cells normally enable the repair of damaged nerves that transmit smell messages to the brain. Relocated to the spinal cord, the same cells enable the ends of severed nerve fibers to grow and join together – which used to be considered an impossible feat.