Medical Scientists Regrow Spinal Tissue Using Cells in Nose

January 6, 2015

Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article. 

1. tissue /ˈtɪʃ u/ (n.) – an organic material made up of a large amount of similar cells
Example: A scar tissue grew from where he was stabbed on the shoulder.

2. olfactory /ɒlˈfæk tə ri, -tri, oʊl-/ (adj.) – referring to body parts concerned with the sense of smell
Example: She does not know any scent because her olfactory system has been damaged since birth.

3. regenerating /rɪˌdʒɛn əˈreɪ tɪŋ/ (adj.) – having the ability to rebuild something
Example: A starfish has regenerating abilities to replace amputated arms with new ones.

4. theory /ˈθi ə ri, ˈθɪər i/ (n.) – an idea, statement, or proposition that has not yet been proven
Example: The scientists did firsthand experiments in an attempt to prove their theory.

5. culture /ˈkʌl tʃər/ (n.) – an artificial growth of microorganisms for medical or scientific use
Example: The doctors grew a culture of the bacteria to research for a cure.


Read the text below.
European medical scientists have discovered the possibility to repair damaged tissues in the spinal cord using unique cells found in the nose. 

These cells are called Olfactory Ensheathing Cells (OEC). They are located in the olfactory bulbs in the nasal cavity. The OECs’ nerve functions are important to how the sense of smell works. They serve as the pathways where nerve cells travel and transmit data, such as scents and odors, to the brain. OECs also have a regenerating property that renews the damaged nerve fibers every time we breathe in and out.

A group of medical scientists and doctors from Poland and the United Kingdom proposed that OECs can be used to restore damaged cells in the spinal cord. Because of its function and special characteristic, OECs can serve as a bridge that reconnects the broken nerve fibers in the spinal tissue. Therefore, neurons can once again travel through the spinal cord and deliver signals from the brain to the lower limbs.

The group’s theory was proven when the first patient who underwent this kind of surgery successfully regained control of his legs. Darek Fidyka was paralyzed because of a spinal injury from a knife wound.

Surgeons grew a culture of OECs from one of Fidyka’s olfactory bulbs and inserted these cells above and below the injured area. The cells were able to replace his damaged spinal tissue. Two years after the surgery, Fidyka is able to walk with only the aid of a walking frame.  His sexual, bowel, and bladder functions were also recovered.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.  

Discussion A

·         Based on the article, how important is it to understand our body’s functions—even the simple or small ones? Please explain your answer.
·         Should the medicine industry focus on studies like the one mentioned in the article? Why or why not?

Discussion B

·         What part of the body do you think scientists and doctors need to research more on? Please explain your answer.
·         What incurable disease would you want scientists and doctors to find a cure for? Please explain your answer. 

January 6, 2015