Cure for Paralysis? Stem Cell Treatment Allows Crippled Dogs to Walk Again

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By Ewan Palmer | November 19, 2012 9:35 PM EST

Jasper could move his hind legs after 12 months treatment (Cambridge University)

Scientists have helped a group of paralysed dogs walk again after giving then stem cell injections - and the researchers hope the same treatment could work for humans.

The researchers applied the treatment to 23 dogs left unable to walk after suffering spinal injuries from accidents. Cells taken from the lining of the animals' noses were injected into their spines.

The injections enabled the dogs to move their previously paralysed hind legs on a treadmill, with the support of a harness.

May Hay, whose dachshund Jasper was part of the trial, said: "Before the trial, Jasper was unable to walk at all. When we took him out we used a sling for his back legs so that he could exercise the front ones.

"It was heartbreaking. 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."

It is now hoped a similar treatment could be used for humans with spinal injuries. Professor Robin Franklin, one of the co-authors of the study at Cambridge University, said:

"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.

"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.

"It's more likely that this procedure might one day be used as part of a combination of treatments, alongside drug and physical therapies, for example."

Professor Geoffrey Raisman, chair of neural regeneration at University College London, said: "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."

 

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