At the time of writing our last update, the construction work to upgrade the lab facilities at the University College Wroclaw, to comply with the European Medicines Agency (EMA) guidelines, was at an advanced stage. While we had hoped the work would continue to progress at a steady pace, the Covid-19 pandemic presented new challenges and led to further delays. Despite this, some progress was possible; the laboratory’s ventilation system is now fully in place. Once the remainder of the work has been finalised, the equipment will be validated, and approval sought from the Polish Ministry of Health and Good Medical Practice.
This project to upgrade the laboratory is being led by Professor Piotr Ponikowski. As well as being the Rector of the Wroclaw Medical University, he is one of the world’s leading cardiologists. All funding for the new and improved laboratory is being sourced by the University. While the charity is not financing the building work, we are entirely reliant on its timely completion. Only then will the scientists supported by nsif be able to carry out the complex work on the olfactory tissue of the second patient, prior to surgically implanting it in the damaged area of his spinal cord.
Until such a time is possible, the scientists continue to finely tune the both the surgical and cell culture techniques. The patient remains motivated, healthy and ready for such a time when the surgery is possible.
At the end of October, Dr. Daqing Li and Prof. Ying Li from the University College London’s Institute of Neurology travelled to Poland to meet with the Walk Again Project Team. Here they provided training on new techniques of human olfactory ensheathing cell (OEC) culture and preparation, which have been developed since the first procedure. As a reminder, click here to learn more about OECs. The new protocol involves extracting OECs from the patient’s olfactory bulb (located in the forebrain) and impregnating the cells into a collagen scaffold (the ‘Neuropatch’). As mentioned above, this work will be carried out in the newly completed EMA compliant laboratory, ahead of transplantation into the patient’s spinal cord.
While the past twenty months have proved challenging, the Walk Again Project team remain absolutely committed to their pursuit of developing a treatment to improve the lives of those living with spinal cord injury.