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Olfactory Cells Restore Mobility

There are nearly 200,000 people in the United States living with spinal cord injuries. A new and novel trail out of England may eventually lead to an effective treatment for these patients. The new study, published in the neurology journal Brain, looks at the treatment of pet dogs with spinal cord injuries and how restoration of movement was provided by transplanting olfactory cells into the damaged areas. The study looks at 34 pet dogs, mostly Dachshunds, with spinal cord injuries that left them paralyzed. After assessing each individual dog’s mobility problems, researchers removed olfactory “ensheathing” cells from the dogs’ noses. They cultured the cells for around a month and then implanted them into the damaged area of the spinal cord. The results were astonishing, treating paralysis in a way that even researchers never expected. Of the dogs treated with the cells, all regained mobility back into their previously paralyzed legs. Researchers state that while most didn’t display the level of function they had prior to their injury, the dogs were able to display movement and coordination. One dog, Jasper, regained enough control of his back legs that he is up and playing with his fur-siblings. Not all of the dogs received the treatment. Some of the 34 participants were injected with a sterile solution that provided no treatment to their paralysis. Additionally, none of the dogs who were injected with the cultured cells displayed any adverse reactions or health problems. Olfactory “ensheathing” cells are considered unique as they communicate with both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system. In addition, these nervous system cells are the only kind to be able to regenerate. Typically, these cells help pass smells sensed by the dog to the brain for processing. However, through this research, these cells are now known to restore coordination from the spine to the legs, though researchers hoped they would bridge the gap from the brain to the mobility. This research is intriguing and while the concept is a long way off from being able to treat paralyzed humans, further study offers promise. Some of the research will have to be put on hold for the time being. The participants in the study were privately owned pets, not laboratory animals, so euthanasia and necropsy were not an option. Therefore any spinal cord histology that can lead researchers on the right path will have to wait. Jasper, one of the Dachshund participants, on the other hand is reaping great benefits of a still unknown process. After being hit by a car, Jasper utilized a trolley or sling to get around and needed his family for assistance. He is now back to being the busy little dog he is and keeps up well with his pet siblings. Even this dog’s tale gives hope to the thousands of spinal cord injury patients in the U.S. While it could take decades to have a definitive answer as to whether this is a proper course of treatment for humans, it’s positive and fur-friendly results offer hope to those suffering from spinal cord injuries. Sources: BBC News Health - Google News - AFP - ABC News Health -
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