Doctors who helped paralysed man get back on his feet seek new patients

Doctors who helped paralysed man get back on his feet seek new patients
Professors Romuald Zdrojowy and Wlodzimierz Jarmulowicz speak at a news conference about the medical procedure that Darius Fidyka (L) from Poland undertook, at the University Hospital in Wroclaw.
PHOTO: Doctors who helped paralysed man get back on his feet seek new patients

A team of doctors who helped a paralysed man get back on his feet by transplanting cells from his nasal cavity into his spinal cord said they were seeking new patients so they could establish their breakthrough was not a one-off.

The doctors said on Wednesday they would advertise via the Internet for volunteers with similar injuries to their patient, Dariusz Fidyka from Poland, who was paralysed from the chest down after being stabbed in the back by his partner's ex-husband in 2010.

He can now walk with the aid of a frame.

"For the next stages of our research we'll need patients who have suffered a spinal cord injury caused by a sharp object, like a knife, or a machete," said Wlodzimierz Jarmundowicz, a neurosurgeon from Wroclaw, western Poland, who was part of the Polish-British team that treated Fidyka.

"The little lightbulb at the end of the tunnel has gone on but we need to repeat the procedure on two or three patients and we'll see," Jarmundowicz told a news conference in Wroclaw.

The doctors plan to set up a website in Polish and another in English to advertise for volunteers.

The technique, described as a breakthrough by a study in the journal Cell Transplantation, involved transplanting what are known as olfactory ensheathing cells into the patient's spinal cord and constructing a "nerve bridge" between two stumps of the damaged spinal column.

The pioneering research was led by Geoffrey Raisman, a professor at University College London's institute of neurology, who worked with surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital.

However, specialists in the field have cautioned that success with one patient is too soon to conclude that the treatment could be of wider benefit. In some cases patients see significant improvement in function purely through rehabilitation, and the passage of time, they say.

Fidyka attended the news conference, in a wheelchair, as feats of his recovered mobility were relayed by the doctors in video presentations.

Visibly surprised by the amount of attention his case was attracting, he apologised for his hoarse voice, which he said came from talking to journalists.

He recalled how in 2011, a year after he was stabbed, he made his first appointment to see Dr. Pawel Tabakow, one of the team that later treated him. "His hair stood on end - he didn't expect a patient with such an injury," Fidyka said.

"Now I can move my left leg, I have more feeling in my right leg, I feel warmth and cold, different physiological and sexual functions are coming back. I could live in a flat on my own. With certain modifications, I can drive."

"There are peaks and troughs, but it's all going in the right direction."

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