UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Spinal surgery: OECs studies to start in 2015

29 October 2014

Clinical studies are set to start next year at the UCL Institute of Neurology into the use of cells from the nose to repair damaged nerves in the spinal cord.

A state of the art clean room to culture cells is currently being completed using BRC funds and it will be the only facility in the UK able to do this at such a scale.

Clinical studies are due to start in 2015 of the use of Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OECs) to repair brachial plexus avulsion, an injury common in motorcycle accidents when the nerve roots are pulled out of the spinal cord and the arm is left paralysed and senseless.

This innovative approach to regenerating nerve cells came under the spotlight last week when a pioneering cell transplantation treatment developed by scientists at UCL, led by Professor Geoff Raisman, Chair of Neural Regeneration at UCL, was applied by surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital, Poland.

The surgeons successfully used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, who was paralysed from the chest down following a knife attack in which his spine was severed, to provide pathways along which broken tissue was able to grow. Mr Fidyka is now able to walk again using a special frame.

Clinicians and scientists are now looking for larger scale clinical trials to develop potential treatments that, hopefully, will benefit more paralysed people globally.

David Choi, Reader in Neurosurgery, in the Department of Brain Repair & Rehabilitation at the UCL Institute of Neurology, is leading the development of the clean room at the Institute in Queen Square. Dr Choi's research into the use of OECs in spinal repair focuses on clinical translation and human studies.

Further information

UCLH BRC website

David Choi's profile on IRIS