For more than a decade, experts have known that olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) might prove useful in treating damaged spinal cords.
The cells support nerve fibre growth that maintains a communication pathway between the nose and the brain.
Previous research suggests that OECs can help form a bridge between damaged and undamaged spinal cord tissue by regenerating nerve fibres.
Although the treatment had been shown to be safe in human patients, its effectiveness was unknown.
In the new trial, scientists studied 34 pet dogs that had all suffered spinal cord injuries as a result of accidents and back problems. None were injured deliberately for the sake of research.
A year or more after their injuries, the animals were unable to use their back legs to walk and incapable of feeling pain in their hindquarters.
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