Upon watching the BBC news on Tuesday night, upon the doom and gloom a significant scientific breakthrough had been reported. 40 year old Darek Fidyka had been paralyzed from the chest downwards after a knife attack to his spinal cord in 2010, can now walk again. This is particularly amazing, as patients with part injuries to the spine have had their injuries healed it is amazing that Fidyka, who had his back completely broken, had made such as recovery. Fidyka, can now walk with the help of a frame, after being stabbed repeatedly in the ferocious attack 4 years ago, he has now been subject to a huge advancement in Science although there are sceptics on if the methods used can work for everyone.
Now, how was this possible? This was made possible through the work of Polish surgeons (where Fidyka is from) and British Scientists. The process when explained sounds pretty simple to comprehend.
The process included using Olfactory Unsheathing Cells, these cells are included in the process of helping nerves in the Olfactory System (system used for sense of smell) to be continually renewed.
The first step included removing the Olfactory Bulbs and we grow them in culture (which is out away from the original living organism). This part of the body was deemed ideal because, the matter of fact is, it’s the only part of the nervous system in an adult that regenerates itself.
Next, the four thin strips of nerve tissue, taken from the patient’s ankle and placed along the broken gap (about 8mm) in the spine, acting like a bridge.
The OEC’s are important in the process as they stimulated the fibres of nerve tissue above and below the injury to reconnect. These are applied into the spinal cord with about 100 micro injections above and below the injury site.
Figure 1: The process of repairing the damaged spine
The Road to Recovery
3 Months after Operation – Fidyka notices that his thigh had put on muscle after 2 Years of no results in Physiotherapy. The routine takes up 25 hours of Fidyka’s week.
6 Months after Operation - Fidyka takes his first steps with the aid of parallel bars, along with the aid of the Physiotherapist at hand and leg braces.
2 Years after Operation – Fidyka can now walk using a frame in the outside world.
Fidyka has also regained partial control over his bladder and has obtained sexual function once again.
Although the men and women responsible for this wonderful scientific breakthrough, the two men with the most media coverage seem to be Professor Wagih El Masri (United Kingdom) & Professor Raisman. The latter spent over 30 years researching reversing paralysis as a possibility and found a breakthrough in Rats where he successfully reversed paralysis. He insists that research took so long to gather as the pharmaceutical industry could find no potential for profits as the patient uses his/her own cells to heal themselves. He also claims that no patient has ever had to pay to further his research, according to him this is something he is very proud of.
However, the Surgeon, Dr Pawel Tabakow was the head of the team of Surgeons that made the procedure possible. He was very inspired by Raisman’s work that he seeked the ethical approval of the method so he tested the injections of OECs into 3 different patients, not to heal them, rather to test it was a safe method, and it was. He opened the skull and removed the OECs from the base of the skull where the olfactory bulbs were, removing one of them. For future patients, Dr Tabakow wants to see if he can pioneer a new technique to remove the Olfactory Bulbs through the nose.
The whole procedure was funded by David…