Spinal cord injuries in Louisiana are not uncommon. In a recent case of treatment of spinal injury, a man of foreign origin, who was paralyzed from chest down for the past four years, has regained partial function of the paralyzed parts following a surgery. The man was attacked and stabbed in the back 4 years ago. The paralysis resulted from the injury and the wounds, leaving him with a gap of eight millimeters in his spinal cord.

Spinal cord injury doctors state that it is difficult to grow back severed spinal nerves, especially when tissue on either side of the wound forms scars. However, the doctor treating the man found a way to use olfactory ensheathing cells, a type of nasal cells, to help nerves grow back.

The olfactory ensheathing cells are the only cells in the human body that promote regeneration of nerve cells. The doctor and his team found a way to partially repair the gap in the spinal cord using strips of nerve fibers from the patient’s ankle and nasal cavity. The case is the first in history to use nerve tissue from a different part of the body to bridge the gap between severed nerves in the spinal cord. The doctors used nerve tissue from the patient’s ankle because the tissue from the nasal cavity was not sufficient to bridge the injury.

The team of doctors will now use the same technique on other patients to confirm the effectiveness of the procedure. The doctors have said that the procedure can only be confirmed in three to five years in which it can be estimated whether the procedure is effective across the board or is, in some way, flawed.

Source: Public Radio International, “For the first time ever, a surgery regrows spinal cord nerves – and lets this man walk again,” Adam Wernick, Nov. 02, 2014.