(NEW YORK) – Thanks to a team of researchers, the secret to reversing paralysis in dogs lies not under their noses, but rather, in them.
Scientists at the Welcome Trust-MRC Stem Cell Institute have concluded that by taking dogs with injured spinal cords and injecting them with cells from their noses, they were able to successfully improve their back leg usage when, at the beginning of the study, these dogs could not use their back legs to walk, and could not feel pain in their back legs.
Biologists were able to avoid the prospect of using stem cells by removing olfactory cells from the linings of the dogs’ noses, and grew them in a Petri dish. These olfactory cells are special because they can envelop cells from the central nervous system that are actually able to regenerate or self-repair, whereas other central nervous system cells are not able to do so.
“Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged cord can bring about significant improvement”, said Professor Robin Franklin, regeneration biologist and co-author of the study.
The team conducted the study by taking 34 dogs that were experiencing lower spinal cord injuries, and injected 23 of them with nose cells, giving the rest a placebo. Many of the dogs treated with nose cells showed improvement in coordination between their front and back legs, with a harness present.
While this nose cell treatment advances the path towards finding an effective treatment for human spinal cord injuries, there is still more work to be done. The study showed no improvement in the long nerve connection between the brain and the spinal cord, something necessary in humans for walking, hand and leg control, sexual function, bowel and bladder control, pain sensation, and temperature control.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio