Surgical Breakthrough Allows a Completely Paralyzed Man to Walk Again

LONDON: In a major medical breakthrough, a man who was completely paralyzed from the waist down due to a severely fractured spine got up from his wheel chair and walked away, offering hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries.

A joint team of British and Polish doctors have for the first time ever reversed a complete spinal paralysis by using nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian fire fighter man who was injured four years ago and has been in a wheelchair since 2010, to create a pathway along which the broken tissue was able to regrow.

Fidyka was left majorly paralyzed during a knife attack and is now feeling the restoring sensation and muscle control to his legs. The 38-year-old can now not only walk with a frame but can also drive a car.

The treatment has also helped recover Fidyka's bladder and bowel sensation and sexual function. Doctors involved in this breakthrough are now trying to raise £10 million to fund surgery in Poland for 10 similar patients so that the technique can be further refined over the next five years.

The surgery was performed by a Polish team led by Dr Pawel Tabakow from Wroclaw Medical University while the discovery of the technique was made by professor Geoffrey Raisman from the University College London's institute of neurology.

The path breaking surgery funded by the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) and the UK Stem Cell Foundation involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose to the spinal cord.

Once relocated to the spinal cord, they enabled the ends of severed nerve fibres to grow back and join together.