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Members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America racing team participate in the 2011 Army Ten Miler with their handcycles Oct. 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)
Members of the Paralyzed Veterans of America racing team participate in the 2011 Army Ten Miler with their handcycles Oct. 9, 2011 in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Teddy Wade/Released)

Polish Surgeons Are Looking To Help Two Paralysed People To Walk Again

Surgeons in Poland were been able to successfully reverse a patient’s paralysis four years after he suffered a knife attack which left him paralysed from the chest down. While the patient, Darek Fidyka, has not yet been able to walk unaided, he has been able to ride a specially adapted tricycle. Using cells taken from Fidyka’s nose, they were able to repair his spinal cord, giving the former fireman feeling and muscle control below the site of his injury.
While all this happened back in 2014, the project has recently made the news again as the Polish surgical team are now looking to help two more paralysed people to walk again.
The research programme began over 40 years ago and involved scientists and surgeons from both Poland and the UK. Now they’re launching a worldwide search to find patients whose paralysis is due to the spinal cord being completely severed. This is an uncommon injury and is usually caused by something like a knife attack.
Dr Pawel Tabokow is leading the project and has said that if they are able to bridge the gap between the two stumps of the spinal cord, then it will prove that their technique works and that they will have found a cure for paralysis. This will mean that they’ll also be able to help paralysed people who suffer from the more common type of spinal injury due to a crush or compression.
While the Wroclaw Walk Again Project will take place in Poland, it’s open to anyone, anywhere in the world. The team’s website officially launched on 8th March for applicants. To be eligible for the treatment, patients must have no feeling or voluntary muscle function below the site of their injury and, while the treatment is completely free, the participants will have to spend at least three years in Poland.
Those people who meet the criteria will be placed on a shortlist. After scans and medical notes are taken into account, a few potential volunteers will be invited to Poland to assess their suitability for the treatment. During the project, participants will be given extensive physiotherapy both before and after the transplant surgery, which will be the same pioneering surgery performed on Fidyka.
The surgery, which aims to reconnect the brain with the lower limbs along the spinal cord, involves firstly removing one of the olfactory bulbs, which contains the cells that act as a pathway to enable the nerve fibres in the olfactory system to renew. A second operation will then take place to inject these cells above and below the site of the spinal injury, before strips of tissue are laid across the gap in the spinal cord. It’s hoped that this will enable the nerve fibres to regenerate and thus repair the damage to the cord.

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