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Paralysed man walks after surgery
21 Oct 2014 10:10
A man paralysed from the waist down after his spinal cord was severed in a stabbing attack is able to walk again after undergoing pioneering surgery.
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The 38-year-old Bulgarian patient, who suffered his injury in 2010, is believed to be the first person in the world to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves.
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Darek Fidyka can now walk with a frame and has been able to resume an independent life, even to the extent of driving a car.
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Sensation has returned to his lower limbs.
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Surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from Mr Fidyka’s nose to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.
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Despite success in the laboratory, it is the first time the procedure has been shown to work in a human patient.
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Professor Geoffrey Raisman, whose team at University College London's Institute of Neurology discovered the technique, 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."
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A Polish team led by one of the world's top spinal repair experts, Dr Pawel Tabakow, from Wroclaw Medical University, performed the surgery.
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The procedure involved transplanting olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) from the nose to the spinal cord.
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OECs assist the repair of damaged nerves that transmit smell messages by opening up pathways for them to the olfactory bulbs in the forebrain.
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Re-located to the spinal cord, they appear to enable the ends of severed nerve fibres to grow and join together - something that was previously thought to be impossible.
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While some patients with partial spinal injury have made remarkable recoveries, a complete break is generally assumed to be unrepairable.
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