Tonight’s Panorama programme

We look forward to seeing more details in this evening’s BBC Panorama programme (BBC 1 at 22.35, Tuesday 21 October) about the treatment of Darek Fidyka, a paralysed patient in Poland, in a study using olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs), led by Prof Geoff Raisman of UCL’s Institute of Neurology working with a surgical team in Poland.

Mark Bacon, Executive and Scientific Director of Spinal Research, says:

“Understandably, there is keen interest and excitement surrounding any report of advances in spinal cord injury repair. The widely publicised news coming from Poland shows the field is now making forays into unknown territory. However, we must appreciate that the group are merely reporting on one patient which demonstrates feasibility, something that has been previously demonstrated by numerous groups. We cannot be complacent with regards to safety which must be demonstrated over time and after more patients have received the procedure without ill effect.

“As for therapeutic effect, this cannot be assumed from the information available at this time. The functional and neurological changes need closer examination and quantification, as does the issue of which component or components of this whole procedure give rise to such changes. The possibility of the intensive rehabilitation regime, post procedure, significantly or wholly driving the benefits cannot and should not be discounted. All this should be addressed in a controlled clinical trial setting, the outcome of which we very much look forward to.”

Spinal Research funded earlier work by Prof Raisman and many others to investigate OECs.

Overall, this is a very exciting time for research into spinal injury, which offers hope to many paralysed people around the world.   Research is making continuous progress and we welcome the growing interest in developments in this very important field.