Technology
Jasper: The Paralyzed Dog Who’s Walking Again Thanks To Scientists & Unique Cells In His Nose
November 19, 2012
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Scientists in Britain have encouraging news today regarding spinal cord research.

A team at the University of Cambridge has reversed paralysis in dogs, which had suffered spinal injuries and were left unable to use their back legs.

The scientists removed a unique type of cells from the lining of the dogs' noses and grew them in a lab for several weeks.

Then, they injected the cells into the dogs' injured area.

34 dogs were part of the study. 23 of them were injected with the cells. The rest were injected with a neutral fluid.

Many of the dogs that received the transplant improved considerably and were able to walk on a treadmill with the support of a harness.

Researchers say the cells regenerated nerve fibres in the damaged part of the spinal cord. That allowed the dogs to regain the use of their back legs and coordinate movement with their front legs.

Jasper, a 10-year-old dachshund, is one of the dogs which took part in the trial. You can see him in the video at the top of the page, before and after his treatment.

His owners told the BBC "Before the treatment we used to have to wheel Jasper round on a trolley because his back legs were useless. Now, he whizzes around the house and garden and is able to keep up with the other dogs. It's wonderful."

Here they are speaking with The Telegraph.

As for the dogs that didn't get the transplant, none of them regained the use of their back legs.

Scientists they're cautiously optimistic this could eventually be used to help people with spinal injuries, if used along with other treatments.

Professor Robin Franklin is a regeneration biologist at the Wellcome Trust-Medical Research Council Stem Cell Institute. He also co-wrote the report.

"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," Franklin said.

"We're confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries but that's a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function."

The study is the first to test the transplant in "real-life" injuries. Until now, it's only been done on lab animals.

It was published in the neurology journal 'Brain.'

Professor Geoffrey Raisman is the chair of Neural Regeneration at University College London. In 1985, he discovered the cells used in the transplant.

He told the BBC "This is not a cure for spinal cord injury in humans - that could still be a long way off. But this is the most encouraging advance for some years and is a significant step on the road towards it."

But he went on to say "This procedure has enabled an injured dog to step with its hind legs, but the much harder range of higher functions lost in spinal cord injury - hand function, bladder function, temperature regulation, for example - are yet more complicated and still a long way away."

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