11/21/2012 01:53 pm ET Updated Nov 21, 2012

Dogs Paralyzed By Spine Damage Walk Again After Nose Cell Transplants (VIDEO)

A pioneering new treatment developed in the United Kingdom is allowing paralyzed dogs to walk again.

A new experiment from the University of Cambridge took cells from dogs' noses and then injected them into the injured part of their back, helping regenerate their spines, reported the Daily Mail.

The cells, known as olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC), are specialized for the repair of nerve fibres in the nose. But by transplanting them to the spinal cord, they can do the same repair work there.

After the treatment, the animals were able to move previously paralyzed limbs.

Professor Robin Franklin, co-author of the study from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, told the Daily Mail, "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."

In the study, published in the journal Brain, scientists looked at 34 dogs who had suffered severe spinal injuries. None of the dogs could use their back legs to walk.

Of the 34, 23 had the cells transplanted into the injury site -- the rest were injected with a neutral fluid, reported the BBC.

All of the dogs who were injected with the cells showed significant improvement in mobility. Some also regained bowel and bladder control after the treatment.

May Hay, whose dog Jasper took part in the trial, told the Telegraph: "Before the trial, Jasper was unable to walk at all."

"When we took him out we used a sling for his back legs so that he could exercise the front ones. It was heartbreaking," she added. "But now we can't stop him whizzing round the house and he can even keep up with the two other dogs we own. It's utterly magic."

While earlier tests on paralyzed rats enabled them to move their hind legs six weeks after being injected with OEC, this was the first study performed on animals that suffered accidental injury. The treatment took place at least 12 months after the spine was damaged.

Scientists say that this more closely resembles a scenario that could involve a human patient.

Franklin told the Daily Mail that while he was confident that while the technique could restore "at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injury," it is more likely that the procedure would be used as part of a combination of treatments.



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