Frequently Asked Questions

nsif believes passionately that spinal injury can become a treatable condition. nsif is not a medical organisation, but is committed to funding research, potentially leading to a cure for paralysis caused by spinal injury.

We will be updating the website with any new information coming from our research.

What is the most recent breakthrough?

Through cell transplantation surgery followed by intensive rehabilitation over a period of more than two years, scientists partly funded by nsif have been able to restore assisted walking and some sensation to one patient.

We are delighted that since 2014 progress has continued and the patient is registering bladder control and sexual function. He is also independently riding a tricycle. There are encouraging signs but the scientists cannot be certain at this point where these will lead. Read the BBC’s latest report here.

The results in this one patient follow many years of laboratory work. A detailed analysis of the findings of the OEC transplantation surgery and rehabilitation project can be found in this published research paper.

There is no research yet that suggests spinal injured people could make a complete recovery and return to their condition before the injury, but the latest breakthrough suggests their quality of life could be vastly improved. These findings now need to be repeated in more patients and, we hope, improved upon.

The major loss of function in spinal cord injury is due to the severance of the long fibre tracts that carry impulses from the brain to control voluntary movement and bodily function, and up to the brain to transmit sensation. Once they have been severed these fibre tracts do not repair themselves. However, spinal injured people do show improvements with time and rehabilitation. The degree of improvement differs greatly between patients and is hard to predict. With time, the rate of this improvement slows, and eventually stops. This improvement is a result of the undamaged parts of the spinal cord “relearning and reorganising”. The research nsif funds attempts to restore function over and above this “natural” recovery, and actually repair those damaged fibre tracts.

The research we are currently funding involves a surgical procedure which transplants special cells (olfactory ensheathing cells) from the patient’s own olfactory system – which gives us our sense of smell – into the site of injury. These special cells can act as a “bridge” over which damaged connections can grow back. So far this is showing remarkable promise.

We will be reporting on any advances as they happen via this website.

What is the next step?

The next vital step is to repeat the procedure that has shown success in the first patient. The scientists need to confirm the findings and explore their scope, through optimising the procedure and rehabilitation.

The nsif funded research project led by Dr. Pawel Tabakow, of Wroclaw Medical University in Poland, is now prepared to accept two further patients. Dr. Tabakow’s team have launched a dedicated website to allow patients worldwide to view the medical criteria for entry into this groundbreaking research programme.

We are determined to see a world free of permanent paralysis from spinal cord injury. We aim to keep followers informed. Until then we are not in a position to assist.

 

Does this mean I will be cured?

At present there is no research that envisages returning spinal injured people to the condition they were in before the injury. What we do expect is that the research we are funding will lead to procedures that will greatly improve the abilities and quality of life of people with spinal injury.

However, the speed at which this research will progress is unknown; there are many factors that still need to be tested to see to what extent, and in what kinds of injuries, any kind of recovery through surgery can be expected.

How can I arrange treatment like this for my son, daughter or loved one?

There is no available treatment for patients. The scientists do not expect a future treatment to become available for a number of years. The procedure carried out in Poland is part of a medical research project, to which nsif contributes funding.

nsif is not a medical organisation and is not involved with patient recruitment for any medical trials. nsif cannot receive or hold patient notes or case descriptions, so we kindly ask that you do not contact the charity about individual medical cases.

We purely fund research and we have limited resources, so we need to concentrate these on funding the development of a cure.

Is there a centre offering this treatment?

At present this is not available as a treatment in any medical facility; it is still in the research phase. When we can identify an effective procedure it will be announced and if and when this becomes available through medical centres, we would aim to keep followers informed. Until then we are not in a position to assist.

 

What is your advice to me?

Keep your body in the fittest possible condition, and get back as much of a social and professional life as you can. These are needed to put you in the best position to get the maximum benefit from future treatments being developed.

How do I get more information?

This website will be updated with any new information coming from our research. You can also email info@nsif.org.uk.

For more information on the medical research being carried out by Dr. Pawel Tabakow and his team visit their website 

How can I help if I want to be involved?

There are many ways of getting involved with nsif. We hold regular fundraising events, so please visit our events page for information about these. We also sell merchandise such as the cookbook Off Duty through the website, profits from which are donated to the charity. You can also look into volunteering opportunities with nsif, or think about creating your own fundraising event using tools such as the Just Giving service. Visit our Get Involved section here.

We hope to hear from you soon!

Where and how can I donate to nsif?

You can donate to nsif through this website by visiting our donation page. There, you will find information on one-off and regular donations, as well as other ways of supporting the charity.

If you are a philanthropist or company interested in supporting nsif you can email alice@nsif.org.uk. Our partnership guide contains detailed information about ways of teaming up with nsif, and the benefits you can expect.

The Charities Aid Foundation will automatically process any donations made online for Gift Aid, and nsif will process Gift Aid on any cheque donations.

You can also donate through Just Giving.

Everything we do at nsif depends on funding from the public. We make every effort to ensure this funding is used efficiently and transparently to further the development of a cure for spinal cord injury. You can view our donor charter here.

We would like to adopt nsif as part of our corporate and social responsibility initiative

nsif depends on the support of its corporate partners and we would be delighted to discuss the possibility of collaborating with you. Please see our partnership guide for detailed information on opportunities to partner with nsif, or email alice@nsif.org.uk if you would like to discuss this in person.

Our corporate supporters all benefit from being involved with a project that has highly visible and tangible results. Although we are a charity, we are run with a commercial ethos to ensure your support has maximum impact. We will report back to you with total transparency about how your support is being used within nsif.

Who handles the press enquiries?

Please visit our press resources page for recent press releases and contact information for press enquiries. We also have a newsroom where you can view recent coverage of nsif.

If your question has not been answered, you can email the team at info@nsif.org.uk

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