Where will we be – one year from now?

One year ago this week, it emerged in the media that scientists believed they had recorded the reconnection of severed long spinal nerve fibres for the first time. This followed groundbreaking work by Professor Geoffrey Raisman and Dr. Pawel Tabakow, as well as their incredible teams. Through cell transplantation surgery and intensive rehabilitation, the scientists were able to restore assisted walking and some sensation to one patient. This patient was Darek Fidyka, and nsif was a key funder of the research.

After becoming completely paralysed from the chest down, following a knife attack that resulted in full spinal cord transection, Darek was told his chances of recovering any sensation or movement were negligible. Two years after pioneering surgery, he has recovered some bladder and bowel sensation and sexual function, and can now walk with assistance.

Speaking to BBC Panorama, Darek recalled: “When it starts coming back, you feel as if you’ve started your life all over again, as if you are born again.

Professor Raisman described the breakthrough as “more impressive than man walking on the moon”. And while the achievement is great, the task that lies ahead may be greater still.

The breakthrough has dramatically widened the field of what is possible, and it is now a question of how far we can go into the unknown. We are a little charity with a huge undertaking, which is why we need your support. This research is bringing us closer to a cure for spinal cord injury and we can’t stop now.

We are marking one year on from this breakthrough with a social media campaign, #wearensif. Inspired by Professor Raisman’s comment comparing the achievement to man walking on the moon, the theme is the incredible possibility held by scientific research – and the urgency of continuing to fund it.

Space exploration is a fitting parallel to exploring the vast potential of our own bodies; the wonder of space a metaphor for the mysteries yet to be solved here on Earth. The vastness of space also shows the enormity of the challenge we face when it comes to developing a cure for SCI.

For nsif, the release of BBC Panorama’s To Walk Again marked the beginning – not the end –of a long journey. The discovery of the potential role of OEC cells in curing spinal cord injury and their successful clinical application is indeed an incredible landmark to be celebrated, but it is not the place to stop. nsif is now committed to funding the next stage of the project, which involves funding further patients through the clinical work being done in Poland and continuing to fund the work of Professor Raisman and his team at UCL’s Institute of Neurology, in their quest for the best source of olfactory ensheathing cells in human tissue and other advancements in the research. 

Text ‘NSIF13 £3’ to 70070 today and help us finish our journey.\r\n

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