2022 has been another busy year for the fantastic research team at UCL They have made significant progress towards the project goal – laying the foundation for the translation of our lab research to clinical application in the UK.
UCL Hospital Trust has now been recruited as a study centre after going through the regulatory processes by the Health and Research Authority and Research and Ethics Committee (REC and HRA). In addition, Ahmed Ibrahim, who works closely with the research team has taken up a new position at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, helping to bridge the lab to the hospitals. This means the team now have greatly improved access to human tissue samples to work with.
Their focus going forward is now on understanding the characteristics of human OEC culture, the impact of banking conditions on them and their reparative properties.
(from l-r: Kamile Minkelyte, Ahmed Ibrahim, Ying Li, Daqing Li.)
Kamile Minkelyte, who joined the team at UCL in 2019 through the nsif funded Geoffrey Raisman Fellowship, has successfully completed her Doctorate in Philosphy.
Through her thesis project, entitled ‘The Therapeutic Potential of Olfactory Ensheathing Cells for the Repair of Spinal Cord Injuries’, Kamile was able to validate a new cell culturing protocol that the lab team have developed which increases the proportion of OECs in cultures derived from the olfactory mucosa. The original breakthrough surgical procedure carried out on the first patient in 2012, involved taking OECs from his olfactory bulb, which involves invasive intracranial surgery, which comes with its own risks. Therefore, to be able to use OECs from mucosal tissue, lining the inside of the nasal passage, will make the surgical procedure a much safer process.
Kamile has also investigated the use of biomaterials as a method to deliver the OECs into the injury area. This again will reduce the risk of the operation by negating the need for multiple injections into the injury site. The idea now is that the OECs are encapsulated into a single collagen patch which can be implanted over the injury site. Additionally, the use of biomaterials means that a limited number of cells could be expanded to bridge a large injury area.
Kamile’s recent work has involved mastering a difficult surgical technique. which enable the team to visualize the trajectory of nerve fibre growth after OECs have been transplanted into the spinal cord. This work will help advance knowledge of the mechanisms involved in spinal cord injury and repair for the benefit of patients in the future.
Due to the Kamile’s invaluable contribution her funding has been extended so that she can remain with the team at UCL.
We very much look forward to following the teams progress into 2023 and sharing any developments with our supporters.