British scientists have successfully restored limited lower body function for Darek Fidyka, a Polish man who has been paralyzed for more than four years.
In 2010, a man viciously attacked Fidyka based on rumors that the former firefighter was having an affair with his wife. The victim was stabbed 18 times in the back, and one of the strikes sliced clean through his spine.
Fidyka survived the assault, but he lost all motor and sensory control in his lower body. Even after intense physical therapy, his doctor estimated that he only had a 1 percent chance of recovery.
Earlier this year, the 38-year-old paraplegic underwent an experimental surgery developed at University College London. According to research conducted at the university, damaged spinal nerve cells can create new connections with a little help from special cells found in the nasal cavity.
The surgeons removed olfactory ensheathing cells from Fidyka’s nose and transplanted them to the spinal cord stumps above and below his injury. Doctors hoped the cells would connect and bridge the gap caused by the injury, which is exactly what happened.
Within months of the procedure, Fidyka developed feeling in one of his legs and was able to move it around on his own. Now, he can get around in a walker and can even drive a car, allowing him to resume many of his normal tasks.
Doctors are hesitating to publicize the results, saying they need additional subjects and more information about long-term consequences. Despite their reservations, Fidyka is thrilled by the results, saying that regaining use of his legs “is like being born again”.
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[Did You Know: In 2013, approximately 273,000 people were living in America with spinal cord injuries.]
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