Cambridge, UK – A paralyzed dog can walk again having cells extracted from his nose and implanted in his injured spine.
Ten-year-old dachshund Jasper had to be escorted around in a trolley when his hind legs were paralyzed after being hit by a car. However, to the amazement of owner May Hay, her previously paralyzed dog is now close to being fully mobile after taking part in a random, double-blind study at Cambridge University. Speaking to the BBC, Hay revealed:
“Now, he whizzes around the house and garden and is able to keep up with the other dogs. It’s wonderful.”
Jasper was just one of 34 dogs with paralyzed hind legs who took part in the study, and the results of the research have since been published in Brain, a journal that focuses on neurology.
At the start of the study, researchers collected olfactory “ensheathing” cells from the nose of each paralyzed dog, cultured the cells in Petri dishes for three to five weeks, and then injected them into the dogs’ spines.
After testing the mobility of the dogs on treadmills before and after their treatment, the scientists found the cells had somehow restored mobility and coordination to the afflicted legs. Communication between the brain and the hind legs was not revived, but the results are still exciting doctors. Spinal cord injury researcher Naomi Kleitman told the BBC:
“For those dogs that had the cells, something about having those cells in their spinal cord made them walk better, a little better, but not as if they were never injured. It’s a phenomenon, and we need to learn more about how this can happen.”
The researchers admit they’ve yet to figure out why they saw such success in their study. It is widely believed that olfactory ensheathing cells are unique in being able to communicate between the central and peripheral nervous systems allowing smell signals to travel directly to the brain. They are also known to regenerate whereas other cells in the central nervous system cannot.
While researchers work out how they helped a paralyzed dog walk again, Jasper can get back to the serious business of walks, this time without a harness. You can watch an ABC report of Jasper’s progress below:
Sadly, still no word on whether this could help epileptic dogs.