The Sense of Smell May Hold the Secret to Spinal Cord Repair

A Polish man paralyzed from the chest down since 2010 has regained the ability to walk after a new treatment transplanted cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord. 

A fascinating new treatment may provide hope for those who have been told they may never walk again. After all, that's what doctors said to Darek Fidyka of Poland after a knife attack in 2010 left him paralyzed from the chest down. Yet now, two years after undergoing an experimental procedure, Fidyka is able to walk with aid of a frame.


BBC News' Fergus Walsh explains how a team of British and Polish doctors reignited Fidyka's mobile fire:

"The treatment used olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) - specialist cells that form part of the sense of smell.

OECs act as pathway cells that enable nerve fibres in the olfactory system to be continually renewed."

These regenerative cells were first removed from the patient's nasal cavity, allowed to grow in culture, and then implanted into his spinal cord. As Walsh writes, the scientists who have monitored Fidyka believe the OECs helped reconnect the nerves in his spine and set him on the road to recovery. MRI scans show that gaps in the spinal cord fully recovered after the procedure.

For more about how the sense of smell could hold the key to spinal recovery, read Walsh's full article at BBC News

Photo credit: Lightspring / Shutterstock

For more on physical regeneration, check out the following Big Think/Floating Universe video with Dr. Doug Melton about an experiment testing the capabilities of young blood to repair muscles in older subjects:

Befriend your ideological opposite. It’s fun.

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Sponsored by Charles Koch Foundation
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  • "It's really sad that people seem to think that if you disagree with somebody on some issues you can't be mutually respectful, you can't enjoy each other's company, you can't learn from each other and grow in yourself," says Strossen.
  • The opinions expressed in this video do not necessarily reflect the views of the Charles Koch Foundation, which encourages the expression of diverse viewpoints within a culture of civil discourse and mutual respect.
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