Dogs offer hope to paralysed humans
A study of pet dogs with severe spinal injuries suffered in accidents offers new hope for paralysed human patients.
Scientists restored movement to the dogs’ hind legs by bridging breaks in the spinal cord using cells taken from their noses.
One previously crippled dachshund, Jasper, was described by its owner as “whizzing around the house” after undergoing the treatment.
The randomised controlled trial is the first to demonstrate effective spinal cord repair in “real life” injury cases.
Prof Robin Franklin, a study leader from Cambridge University, said: “Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement.”
For more than a decade, experts have known that olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) might prove useful in treating damaged spinal cords. The cells support nerve fibre growth that maintains a communication pathway between the nose and the brain.
Previous research suggests that OECs could help form a bridge between damaged and undamaged spinal cord tissue by regenerating nerve fibres.
In the new trial, scientists studied 34 pet dogs that had all suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of accidents and back problems.
Significant improvement was seen in dogs injected with OECs, which moved previously paralysed hind limbs and co-ordinated the movement with that of their front legs. – (PA)