Pet dogs with spinal injuries could be saying goodbye to slings and wheels now that researchers have helped a group of injured dogs to use their back legs again by injecting their spinal cords with a specific type of cell.
MRC scientists and researchers from Cambridge University’s Veterinary School gave half the dogs in the trial cells called olfactory ensheathing cells, which support the growth and guidance of neurons, from their own noses. The other half received a placebo. The researchers say the injected cells stimulated the growth of a ‘bridge’ between the damaged and undamaged parts of the spinal cords.
The work could help people with similar injuries one day, though the researchers are keen to stress that this would be as part of a package of treatments alongside drug or physical therapies. While the results in dogs have been significant, it’s difficult to tell how effective the treatment will be in people, because we don’t have four legs to rely on.
Here’s a video of Jasper, one of the dogs who received cells, showing off his renewed walking skills on a treadmill. Jasper’s owners used to need a sling to support his back legs 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”, says his owner May.
(Credit: MRC/Cambridge University)