A recent study has shown that dogs left paralysed by a spinal cord injury have been able to walk again after cells taken from the dogs’ nose were injected into the spinal cord.
The cells, known as olfactory ensheathing cells, are found at the back of the nose and are directly exposed to constant attacks from the environment (e.g. pollutants, viral infections). As a consequence, this part of the nervous tissue has developed a remarkable capacity to repair itself after damage and has been shown to provide a tissue bridge through the thick scar that forms after injury.
Previous studies on paralysed rats have shown that they were able to move their hind legs just six weeks after being injected with these cells. However, this is the first study to be performed on animals that suffered a spinal cord injury at least 12 months prior to treatment.
The study, carried out by a research team from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Campbridge Stem Cell Institute, University of Cambridge, originally appeared in the journal Brain.
Dr Mark Bacon, Director of Research at Spinal Research, commented: “This is a robust piece of research which has seen some positive changes in animal patients with real-world injuries, not experimental.
“As the ‘patient’ serves as their own donor, there are no problems with rejection and a number of benefits can be observed, including improved bladder function – potentially very important for quality of life of those with a spinal cord injury.
“This is an important test for a potential treatment in a patient group that might be said to more closely reflect the diversity of injury presented by clinical patients. It is a key translational step forward, and we’re pleased that we were able to play a part in its development by funding the early proof of principle work of this group prior to MRC funding.”