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Friday, October 9, 2009

Paralysed dog walks again after pioneering treatment that could help humans with spinal injuries

By Daily Mail Reporter

A paralysed dog has been put back on his feet again, raising hopes of a treatment for humans with severe spinal injuries.

Henry the miniature dachshund was unable to walk after discs ruptured in his spine last November.

In a pioneering treatment, scientists at Cambridge University took cells from his nose and injected them into his spine.

Henry the miniature dachshund

Back on four legs: Henry the miniature dachshund, who was paralysed, has taken his first steps after pioneering treatment by scientists at Cambridge University

These cells are used because they aid the growth of new nerve fibres.

Now the six-year-old dog is walking and wagging his tail again.

Scientists originally found the treatment worked on rats. Professor Nick Jeffery and Professor Robin Franklin, who are running the trial, then decided to try the procedure on dogs because spinal injuries are common in many breeds.

Henry has also received physiotherapy and is monitored on a treadmill.

Dr Jeffrey said: 'We hope if the results are positive in a few years time the treatment could perhaps be used to help people.'

Scientists at Cambridge Veterinary School took cells from Henry's nose and injected them back into his spine.

'It's incredible, I didn't think Henry would ever be able to walk again, but over the last few months he has been wagging his tail and taking small steps,' said owner Sarah Beech, 34, from Birmingham.

'The vet told me to put him to sleep because he wouldn't have a very good quality of life and he was very depressed. But this treatment has really helped.'

Henry the miniature dachsund

Scientists took cells from Henry's nose and injected them into his spine

Henry had always enjoyed going for walks but suddenly lost the use of his legs about a year ago.

'One day he yelped when I picked him up and two days later he couldn't walk,' she added.

'The discs in his back were pushing into his spinal cord and eventually he lost the use of his back legs and continence.

'I think he may have fallen down the stairs at some point before I bought him as his spine was quite badly damaged.' Henry was given an operation to ease the pressure on his spine, but it didn't work.

Then Sarah heard about the new treatment for severe spinal cord injuries and decided to enlist him in the trial.

Cells were harvested from his nose in March and injected back into his spine after four weeks.

Just a month later Henry took his first steps.

Henry during treatment

Step by step: Henry undergoes treatment

'He can take at least four steps now so he is making good progress,' said Sarah.

'His tail is also starting to get back to its original shape which shows he is getting some feeling back.'

Dr Jeffery said: ''Most dogs with spinal injuries can be treated conventionally and make a good recovery, but this procedure is intended for particularly severe cases.

'Cells are collected from inside the back of the nose as these special cells are capable of supporting the growth of new nerve fibres.

'We then increase the cell numbers, purify them and place them back into the damaged region of the spinal cord, where they help new fibres to grow.'

After the procedure dogs are given physiotherapy and monitored on a treadmill to see how much movement has returned to their legs.

'The potential of this procedure is enormous,' Dr Jeffery added.

'We hope if the results are positive in a few years time the treatment could perhaps be used to help people.'