The BBC covered a ground breaking medical development as a previously paralysed, Polish firefighter has been enabled to walk again after a nasal cell transplant to his spinal chord. Due to 30 years of research into the regenerative properties of olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) found in the nasal cavity, neuroscientist Professor Geoff Raisman has achieved partial success with the treatment; the main limitation of the therapy being the financial burden.
Being a sports enthusiast myself, the concept of paralysis seems devastating. This area of research is fascinating: a solution to injuries to the CNS without the risk of an immune response to an allograft or the ethical concerns of autologous embryo stem cell therapy. However, this is one case regarding this technique and whilst it was a huge success, the patient selection process is extensive and there is intensive post-treatment rehabilitation process. I understand that caution must be taken in order to prevent arising unrealistic expectations and whilst it seems to be an extraordinary achievement, it is far from being implemented in the NHS. Public fundraising has never been so essential and the story of a paraplegic Daniel Nicholls and his father who is the founder of the Nicholls Spinal Injuries Foundation, a charity which has contributed to research over £2.5 million, is truly inspirational.
Another line of inquiry taken at Newcastle university is Spinal Chord Stimulation, where an external electrical stimulation reconnects the brains voluntary intensions with the isolated limb. Yet again another encouraging prospect.
What grips me across this research topic is the potential techniques are so vast, from tissue transplants to electrical stimulation, and that is not even delving into the prospects of induced pluripotent cells; the solution seems so close.