UCL Queen Square Institute of Neurology


Spinal Repair Unit

Using surgical techniques to correct neurological problems, and developing new ways to repair spinal injury

Spinal repair

Confocal fluorescent micrographs showing sagittal cryosections of 17 pcw human foetal olfactory system*

Scientific Lead:

Professor Ying Li

Clinical Lead:

Dr David Choi

Research Team:

Dr Daqing Li

Research Goals

  • To develop a method of repair for spinal cord injuries using transplanted olfactory ensheathing cells cultured from the olfactory system.
  • To apply successful results in experimental models to patients with spinal cord injury, using the patient’s own donor tissue.
  • To optimize the quality of cell production, bridging material and surgical approaches.

Funded Research Projects

  • Characterisation of cell types obtained from mixed cell cultures of the human olfactory mucosa for the application of central nerve repair. Funded by the Wellcome Trust HICF
  • Repair of spinal cord injury by transplantation of olfactory ensheathing cells. Funded by the UK SCF and NSIF

GMP production of human olfactory ensheathing cells. Funded by the National Brain Appeal


Recent publications from Spinal Repair

Turner I, Kennedy J, Morris S, Crockard A, Choi D.  Surgery and radiotherapy for symptomatic spinal metastases is more cost effective than radiotherapy alone:  a cost utility analysis in a UK spinal center.  World Neurosurgery, online 1 January 2018.  DOI: 10.1016/j.wneu.2017.09.189

Collins A, Li D, McMahon SB, Raisman G, Li Y. Transplantation of Cultured Olfactory Bulb Cells Prevents Abnormal Sensory Responses During Recovery From Dorsal Root Avulsion in the Rat. Cell Transplantation 2017; Vol. 26(5):913-924. doi: 10.3727/096368917X695353. Epub 2017 Mar 23.

Nater A, Martin AR, Sahgal A, Choi D, Fehlings MG. Symptomatic spinal metastasis: A systematic literature review of the preoperative prognostic factors for survival, neurological, functional and quality of life in surgically treated patients and methodological recommendations for prognostic studies. PLoS One 2017 Feb 22;12(2):e0171507. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0171507. eCollection 2017.

Oprych K, Cotfas D, Choi D. Common olfactory ensheathing glial markers in the developing human olfactory system. Brain Struct Funct 2017; 222(4):1877-1895. doi: 10.1007/s00429-016-1313-y. Epub 2016 Oct 7.

Bartlett RD, Choi D, Phillips JB. Biomechanical properties of the spinal cord: implications for tissue engineering and clinical translation. Regenerative Medicine 2016 Oct;11(7):659-73. doi: 10.2217/rme-2016-0065. Epub 2016 Sep 5.

Borg A, Kirkman MA, Choi D. Endoscopic Endonasal Anterior Skull Base Surgery: A systematic review of complications during the past 65 years. World Neurosurg. 2016 Nov;95:383-391.doi: 10.1016/j.wneu.2015.12.105. Epub 2016 Mar 4.

Verlaan JJ, Choi D, Versteeg A et al. Characteristics of Patients Who Survived < 3 Months or > 2 Years After Surgery for Spinal Metastases: Can We Avoid Inappropriate Patient Selection? J Clin Oncol. 2016;34(25):3054-61.doi: 10.1200/JCO.2015.65.1497. Epub 2016 Jul 11.

Li Y, Li D, Raisman G. Functional repair of rat corticospinal tract lesions does not require permanent survival of an immuno-incompatible transplant. Cell Transplantation 2016; 25 (2): 293-9. doi: 10.3727/096368915X688551. Epub 2015 Jun 30.

Tabakow P, Raisman G, Fortuna W, Czyz M, Huber J, Li D, Szewczyk P, Okurowski S, Miedzybrodzki R, Czapiga B, Salomon B, Halon A, Li Y, Lipiec J, Kulczyk A, Jarmundowicz W. Functional regeneration of supraspinal connections in a patient with transected spinal cord following transplantation of bulbar olfactory ensheathing cells with peripheral nerve bridging. Cell Transplantation 2014; 23 (12), 1631-55. doi: 10.3727/096368914X685131. Epub 2014 Oct 21.

Further information

* Oprych et al. (2017). Common olfactory ensheathing glial markers in the developing human olfactory system.  Brain Structure and Function May 2017, Volume 222, Issue 4, pp 1877–1895. doi:10.1007/s00429-016-1313-y