COPE Office Administrator Jill Taylor, from the Luscombe, Queensland depot, took part in a fundraiser for the Perry Cross Spinal Research Foundation last year, to help fund a cure for paralysis.

“My stepson Paul sustained a spinal injury in the surf at Burleigh Heads (on the Gold Coast) on Christmas Day in 2003. He was only 17 years old,” Jill said.

“Living life as a quadriplegic is tough. None of us really know what it’s like unless of course we’ve experienced it ourselves.

“Spinal injuries can affect anyone, anywhere. They aren’t just caused through high risk activities, sporting and motor vehicle accidents, it can be as simple as slipping or tripping over.”

Researchers at the Eskitis Institute, Griffith University are working on taking a special type of cell from a patient’s olfactory (sense of smell) system, and transplanting it into the spinal cord injury site.

A world first clinical trial led by the Institute in 2002 demonstrated the therapy was safe for human use. The trail led to a recent human trial by British/ Polish researchers, demonstrating that restoration of function after severing of the human spinal cord is possible.

In this study, a mix of olfactory ensheathing cells and fibroblasts together with a nerve bridge were transplanted into the injured spinal cord. Within 6-12 months after transplantation, the patient (who had been paralysed for several years) regained some motor function of his legs, bladder control and sensation.

The team at the Eskitis Institute is planning to undertake a clinical trial in 201 to progress the journey and demonstrate how the therapy can further regenerate a patient’s sensory and motor function.