Smells like....cold fusion?
October 21, 2014 12:10 PM   Subscribe

A man who was completely paralysed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough which offers hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries. Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian man who was injured four years ago, to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow (Guardian report).

The BBC will air a Panorama episode tonight reporting the claim. They also have an article highlighting some of the people involved.

NHS Behind the Headlines has a slightly less breathless take.

The news was widely reported by both the UK and international media. Coverage was accurate, if uncritical. The lead author's claim that this research was "more impressive than man walking on the moon" seems to have been accepted without question by the media.
However, other experts are less impressed. For example, Dr Simone Di Giovanni, Chair in Restorative Neuroscience at Imperial College London, is reported by the Science Media Centre as saying, "One case of a patient improving neurological impairment after spinal cord knife injury following nerve and olfactory cell transplantation is simply anecdotal. "Extreme caution should be used when communicating these findings to the public, in order not to elicit false expectations...'



The research paper in question is open access, for those who wish to make up their own mind.
posted by Jakey (14 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of the researchers was on tv earlier, he acknowledged there would be a lit of people wanting to know more acne what hope it offered for them. He said it would be 3-5 years out testing away before this was an available option, though I guess there is always the possibility the testing will reveal problems.
posted by biffa at 12:21 PM on October 21, 2014


Ten years too late for Christopher Reeve, but a light of hope for a lot of people. Nice to have a bit of good news for once.
posted by YAMWAK at 12:28 PM on October 21, 2014


The perverse thing is that some miracle cures actually do work miracles. Early use of sulfa drugs (pre-resistance) was seen as almost magical - they just destroyed infections that by all rights should have been lethal.

And so we listen, even though we know better, even though we know that cures 3-5 years away are usually fool's gold, and we hope.

There ought to be a moral obligation to release data like this in the least hyperbolic way possible.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 12:31 PM on October 21, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is so cool. It will make so many peoples' lives so much better.

One of the researchers was on tv earlier, he acknowledged there would be a lit of people wanting to know more acne what hope it offered for them.

Autocorrect: the source of more amusement than its inventors ever imagined.
posted by Mental Wimp at 12:41 PM on October 21, 2014 [7 favorites]


Duck yeah.
posted by maryr at 12:43 PM on October 21, 2014 [4 favorites]


Oh dear, I am away from home and was eating (and drinking) in the pub and posting just as my dinner arrived.
posted by biffa at 12:56 PM on October 21, 2014


I give the Internet 29 hours before "by the nose of Derek Fidyka!" becomes a figure of speech for something.
posted by ocschwar at 12:59 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


"One case of a patient improving neurological impairment after spinal cord knife injury following nerve and olfactory cell transplantation is simply anecdotal.
Let's apply Occam's Razor. Which is more likely:

a) A carefully considered hypothesis, painstaking preparation and the work of many professionals each well versed in their field came together in a way to help the body repair itself and it succeeded.

b) Some environmental factor changed at the exact same time allowing the body to spontaneously repair itself.

c) A fucking miracle occurred at the exact same moment they performed this operation.
posted by Talez at 1:20 PM on October 21, 2014


b) Some environmental factor changed at the exact same time allowing the body to spontaneously repair itself.

c) A fucking miracle occurred at the exact same moment they performed this operation.


From the NHS link:

"The man received intense neurorehabilitation through exercises and other interventions designed to help recovery from a nervous system injury or compensate for its effects."

and

"The man seemed to have no adverse effects in the 19 months following the operation.

From five months after the operation, the man had improved neurological function. By 19 months after surgery, he had improved trunk stability (sometimes known as core stability), partial recovery of the voluntary movements of the lower extremities, and an increase in the muscle of one thigh, as well as improvements in sensation (feeling)."

I'm not sure whether I'd call 19 months 'spontaneous' or 'at the exact same moment'.
posted by pipeski at 1:28 PM on October 21, 2014 [2 favorites]


British science funding allows researchers help a paralyzed European walk. American politicians paralyze science funding, tell researchers to take a hike.
posted by caution live frogs at 2:39 PM on October 21, 2014 [15 favorites]


The patiently reportedly spends most of his day saying "Something smell like ass. "
posted by srboisvert at 3:30 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


My favorite tweet about this so far.
posted by deludingmyself at 4:03 PM on October 21, 2014 [3 favorites]


I'm not sure whether I'd call 19 months 'spontaneous' or 'at the exact same moment'.

I haven't clicked the links and this is not my field, but nerves, at least in the peripheral nervous system, (re)grow extremely, surprisingly slowly. Many, many months is not a surprising or suspicious timeline by itself, as far as I know.
posted by zeek321 at 7:10 PM on October 21, 2014 [1 favorite]


^ What zeek321 said. Nerves regrow at 1mm/day or 1in/month (ballpark).
posted by saturday_morning at 9:00 PM on October 21, 2014


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