A Paralyzed Man Walks: Bulgarian Patient Becomes First To Overcome Severed Spine

A paralyzed man from Bulgaria is walking again, a first in medical history. Darek Fidyka had a severed spine, but defied the odds with an experimental breakthrough.

Normally when your spine is severed, it means you will never have the use of your legs again because the connection to the brain is severed. This means you lose all muscle control and feeling from the waist down.

Thanks to a new technique discovered by British doctors, Fidyka is the first ever to regain that connection.

When Fidyka had suffered a knife attack in 2010 which cleanly cut his upper spinal cord, it left the former firefighter unable to walk for nearly four years. A cell transplant changed his fate as doctors were able to replace part of his spinal cord with cells from his nasal cavity and brain. Though he uses a frame to do so, the transplant gave him back the ability to walk.

The paralyzed man has become the first of millions to at least partially recover from his condition, and the news is exciting for the medical industry. Victims of paralysis due to a severed spine could have a new hope of leaving their hospital beds for the first time on their own. The Anglo-Polish medical team in charge of the new procedure may have created a breakthrough, though it is not known if the cell transplant will work for everybody.

Fidyka was said to have suffered a clean cut, and extensive damage may still be impossible to repair.

Researchers in London developed this remarkable technique put into practice by surgeons in the Polish city of Wroclaw. Using specialized human cells capable of regeneration, they were able to knit a bridge between parts of the spine and repair the damage.

After the slow process of regeneration, 40-year-old Darek Fidyka, a man given a one percent chance of recovery, is now walking on his own and even driving again.

Professor Geoffrey Raisman of UCL’s Institute of Neurology told The Independent about his breakthrough procedure on the once paralyzed man.

“I believe this is the first time that a patient has been able to regenerate severed long spinal nerve fibres across an injury and resume movement and feeling. I believe we have now opened the door to a treatment of spinal cord injury which will get patients out of wheelchairs. Our goal is to develop this first procedure to a point where it can be rolled out as a worldwide general approach.”

Now that a paralyzed man has been given the chance to walk again, this could revolutionize medicine and give over 2 million people the same hope.

[Image via AFP]