Now surgeons in Poland, working in collaboration with scientists in London, have given Fidyka the ability to walk again thanks to a new procedure using transplanted cells from his olfactory bulbs.
The spinal injury that left Darek Fidyka paralyzed did not see the spinal cord entirely severed, but rather an 8 mm chunk removed from the left side. Researchers have for years worked to develop treatments to help those with spinal injuries, but for Fidyka no amount of therapy was helping him recover feeling below his chest. Now, two years after the groundbreaking treatment, Fidyka has regained some feeling in his legs, feet, bowels, bladder, and can now walk with the assistance of a frame.
The procedure saw the medical team remove one of Fidyka's olfactory bulbs then grow olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) in culture and graft the cells onto his damaged spinal column where they helped to re-link vital nerve fibers. According to the UCL, the OECs act as pathway cells that repair and renew nerve fibers when damaged. The team chose OECs as they are the only part of the nervous system with the ability to regenerate in adults.