Health

Paralyzed Man Walks, Drives Car After Breakthrough Surgery

| by Michael Allen

Darek Fidyka was completely paralyzed from the waist down for four years after having his spine severed by a man wielding a knife, but Fidyka is now able to walk after a surgical breakthrough.

Fidyka is the first person to be able to walk after suffering a complete severing of the spinal nerves.

"When you can't feel almost half your body, you are helpless, but when it starts coming back it's like you were born again," Fidyka told the BBC.

The University College London’s Institute of Neurology came up with the procedure, which transplants olfactory ensheathing cells from the nose to the spinal cord.

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The cells in the nose are constantly being damaged, but are also regrown by olfactory ensheathing cells (also in the nose) that create pathways for nerve fibers.

The olfactory ensheathing cells performed the same regrowth in Fidyka's spinal cord.

The amazing surgery was performed by Dr. Pawel Tabakow and his team at the Wroclaw Medical University in Poland.

"It's amazing to see how regeneration of the spinal cord, something that was thought impossible for many years, is becoming a reality," stated Dr. Tabakow.

“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,” Professor Geoffrey Raisman, of the University College London’s Institute of Neurology, told The Guardian.

“The patient is now able to move around the hips and on the left side he’s experienced considerable recovery of the leg muscles," added Professor Raisman. "He can get around with a walker and he’s been able to resume much of his original life, including driving a car. He’s not dancing, but he’s absolutely delighted.”

“Nerve fibers are trying to regenerate all the time," explained Professor Raisman. "But there are two problems, crash barriers, which are scars, and a great big hole in the road. In order for the nerve fibers to express that ability they’ve always had to repair themselves, first the scar has to be opened up, and then you have to provide a channel that will lead them where they need to go.”

Sources: BBC, The Guardian (Image Credit: The Conmunity - Pop Culture Geek)