In the London offices of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF) on a cold January afternoon, the Cure Girls met with Prof. Raisman, NSIF acting CEO Mike Milner and NSIF staff member Alice Crookenden. Regulars to the blog will remember that it was Prof Raisman and Dr Pawel Tabakow who published ground breaking research in October showing regeneration of the spinal cord using olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs). NSIF are currently undertaking extensive fundraising to ensure this research can progress. They are aiming to raise £10m which is to be used exclusively by Raisman and his team. So, how is this money to be used and how do they plan to move this research forward? Replication of the initial results is the primary step and is due to start this year. Depending upon regulatory approval within the UK, replication studies will take place in both the UK and Poland.Prof Raisman suggests that 5 people would be required for each study. OECs are harvested from the olfactory bulb which is located within the brain. Surgery to harvest the cells is invasive, potentially dangerous and expensive but Dr Pawel is already working on cadavers to simplify the surgical removal of the olfactory bulb. At the same time Prof. Raisman and his team are working to find a different source of cells which are easier to harvest and as effective as OECs. The hope is that in the future the removal of the olfactory bulb will not be necessary. One of the major criticisms of this research is that it focusses on a rare injury model – the transected cord, rather than the contused cord. To understand why this research has not been designed around contusion type injuries, we have to understand the pros and cons of the transection model. The team of researchers wanted to show beyond a doubt that the recovery seen in the well documented patient, Darek Fidyka, was from regeneration and not from plasticity. The transection model was ideal for this. It’s important to grasp that this research was not aimed at proving regeneration in contusion type injuries; it aimed to prove that regeneration is possible. Therefore the researchers chose the most appropriate injury model to prove this. Once the replication study has been accomplished, the surgery technique will need to be adjusted to contusion type injuries. Moving forward there are multiple challenges, not least raising sufficient funds to commence replication tests and to continue the search for more effective cells.