A man who was left paralysed from the waist down after a knife attack in 2010 has been able to walk again thanks to pioneering cell transplant surgery.

Darek Fidyka was the first person to undergo the round-breaking therapy that saw surgeons in Poland transplant Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OECs) from his naval cavity into his spinal cord. As a result, Mr Fidyka, 40, can now walk using a frame after years of paralysis.

Despite two years of intense physiotherapy before the treatment, Mr Fidyka had shown no signs of improvement. But in just six months after the surgery Mr Fidyka could walk aided by leg braces along parallel bars assisted by a physiotherapist. Two years later he can now walk around outside with the aid of a walking frame.

The two part treatment was developed in collaboration with scientists in London and surgeons in Poland and is a world first. Surgeons first removed one of the patient’s olfactory bulbs found in the nasal cavity and cultivated the renewable cells separately. After two weeks, the OECs were transplanted into the spinal cord which had been almost completely severed after a knife attack.

The spinal cord was being held together by a thin piece of scar tissue,  meaning doctors had very little space to work with. Surgeons then made 100 micro injections of OEC’s directly onto the spinal cord, inserting the small amount of cells (around 500,000) above and below the injured area.

Surgeons then removed four thin strips of nerve tissue from the patient’s ankle, placing them across an 8mm gap on the damaged spinal cord.

Due to the fact that OECs act as ‘pathway’ cells, enabling nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed, scientists were hoping that these cells combined with the nerve grafts bridging the gap in the spinal cord would provide a pathway to enable fibres above and below the tear to connect.

The result was a fantastic success.

Mr Fidyka said walking again was “an incredible feeling“, adding “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.”

Chair of neural regeneration at University College London’s Institute of Neurology, Prof Geoff Raisman said that the achievement was “more impressive than man walking on the moon“.

The Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) and the UK Stem Cell Foundation (UKSCF) both supported the ground breaking research giving millions of pounds in donations to fund the project.

This incredible story highlights just how important rehabilitation programs and research are to victims of spinal injuries.

Alastair Fernie, Managing Director of Freeclaim Serious Injury Solicitors commented on this development, “This is a huge step forward in the treatment of spinal injuries. It is a revolutionary treatment that brings hope to many people who have been left with paralysis following an accident and injury to the spine.”

A spinal injury such as the one suffered by Mr Fidyka can be a devastating experience, but treatments like these are a positive step in the right direction in finding new ways to give people the help they need. Early rehabilitation after an accident or injury is crucial and can normally be funded as part of a compensation claim.

Freeclaim Solicitors are expert serious injury solicitors, with experience in dealing with spinal injury compensation claims. We will fight tirelessly for you, arranging bespoke treatment plans and rehabilitation for your specific needs. We will look to secure interim payments from the Defendants to help fund treatment, ensuring you receive the best possible care as soon as possible to help with your recovery and get your life back on track.

We have over 30 years’ experience and have successfully brought about many high value serious injury claims recovering millions of pounds in compensation for those affected by serious head, spine and brain injuries.

Call today for free expert legal advice on 0800 612 4472. Our helpline is open 24 hours a day and all enquiries are free with no obligation.