Transplant of nasal cavity cells to spinal cord enables this paralysed man to walk once again
2 How the injury was treated
Before the treatment, Mr Fidyka had been paralysed for nearly two years and had shown no sign of recovery despite many months of intensive physiotherapy.
The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) – dedicated cells that form part of the sense of smell. OECs act as pathway cells that allow nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be frequently reintroduced.
In the first of two operations, surgeons detached one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs and grew the cells in culture. Two weeks later they transferred the OECs into the spinal cord, which had been cut through in the knife attack apart from a thin sliver of scar tissue on the right. They had just a drop of material to work with – about 500,000 cells.
About 100 micro-injections of OECs were given above and below the injury. Also four thin strips of nerve tissue were taken from the patient’s ankle and placed across an 8mm (0.3in) gap on the left side of the cord. The scientists believe the OECs created a pathway to permit fibres above and below the injury to rejoin, using the nerve implants to link the gap in the cord.