A light at the end of the tunnel for those with a serious spinal cord injury
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We have recently heard of a great success in spinal cord reconstruction.
Darek Fidyka, a firefighter from Poland severed his spinal cord in a knife attack in 2010. Mr Fidyka became a paraplegic as a result of the injuries, which means that he was paralysed from his chest down. Luckily he is now able to walk, and all thanks to the pioneering regenerative treatment that he received due to a collaboration between Polish surgeons and British scientists.
The pioneering technology involved the extraction of olfactory unsheathing cells from Mr Fidyka's olfactory bulbs in his nose. These are responsible for the sense of smell. The cells were cultured sufficiently to repair the damaged nerves. With nerve fibres collected from his ankle, these were implanted around the damaged area in a series of 100 separate micro-injections.
Gradually the severed nerves regenerated and Mr Fidyka has slowly regained some of his sensory and motor function. He still requires much physiotherapy input, but the fact that he has regained some of other functions like bladder and bowel control and sexual function is amazing.
I think that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for people whose spinal cord has been damaged. There is still a lot to be done, in terms of research and obtaining further evidence, but I can see victims of road traffic accidents, or crime victims benefiting from this pioneering procedure in the future.
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