Nov. 20 - Jasper the dachshund is walking again after pioneering surgery to inject his paralysed back legs with cells grown from the lining of his nose. Doctors say the technique is unlikely to cure paralysis in humans but could one day be used as part of a spinal treatment to help disabled patients regain movement in their legs. Jim Drury reports.
UPSOT: 'Come on, Jasper' Ten-year-old dachshund Jasper is rediscovering his hind legs. Four years ago, an accident rendered them useless but now, after ground-breaking treatment, he's up and running again. The keys to Jaspers' recovery, came from his nose. SOUNDBITE (English) MAY HAY, OWNER OF JASPER, SAYING: "They took the stem cells from his nose, but it's done through the skull, so not as straightforward as one might think and that wasn't too bad for him. He coped and then we had him home and then it was about four weeks later that they did the injections." Owners Peter and May Hay agreed to let Jasper join 33 other dogs with similar disabilities in a six month medical trial. Most were treated with olfactory ensheathing cells injected into the injury site. The rest were injected with a placebo. By the end of the trial many of those who received the cells were able to walk again. The research team responsible, led by study co-author Professor Robin Franklin, say the technique could one day help treat humans. SOUNDBITE (English) CO-AUTHOR OF STUDY, PROFESSOR ROBIN FRANKLIN OF CAMBRIDGE UNIVERSITY, SAYING: "Olfactory ensheathing cells are very specialised cells that are found in the part of the nervous system that deals with the special sense of smell, or olfaction, and this is a part of the nervous system that continually regenerates the nerve cells that pick up odours in the environment. They're very vulnerable because they're poking into the environment and if there wasn't a capacity to keep regenerating these nerve fibres we'd lose the sense of smell very quickly." The procedure could eventually be used alongside drug treatments to promote nerve fibre regeneration and help restore some movement in human paraplegics but Professor Geoffrey Raisman, who discovered olfactory ensheathing cells in 1985, says it does not represent a cure for paralysis. SOUNDBITE (English) PROFESSOR GEOFFREY RAISMAN, CHAIR OF NEURAL REGENERATION AT UNIVERSITY COLLEGE LONDON, SAYING: "This kind of response has already been shown in experimental animals. This extends it to another species. The problem is that this is one function, which is the ability of the hind limbs to follow the four limbs. It would not be relevant, for example, to most of the things that affect spinal injured patients like use of the hands or control of the bowel or bladder or sexual function." For Jasper, partial communication has been restored within the spinal cord - an encouraging advance - and Peter Hay is delighted with the results. SOUNDBITE (English) PETER HAY, OWNER OF JASPER, SAYING: "He's just a functioning dog now. He walks with the other dogs, he goes on exactly the same length of walk, he goes into the same ditches, he comes out of them. It's just another dog." The project was a collaboration between the Medical Research Council's Regenerative Medicine Centre and Cambridge University's Veterinary School. Although potential human trials are years away, Jasper's owners say they're grateful for the researchers' dogged determination.