Getting Closer to Curing Paralyzed People?The beauty of science and technology is that things that seemed impossible in living memory are now regularly done. From cochlear implants (look at this video of a 29 years old woman who hears for the first time) to looking through billions of documents around the world in less than a second for free (Google!) to the eradication of smallpox, a lot of really cool progress is being made all the time. Of course, we get used to these things so quickly that they don't seem all that fantastic anymore, but trust me, if they were all taken away from us, we'd certainly miss them!
But for every success story, there are also a areas where progress is slower than we would want. For example, there are millions of paralyzed people who could greatly benefit from a way to repair or replace damaged nerves, but so far a cure remains elusive for most of them. But thankfully, the absence of a complete cure doesn't mean that progress isn't being made. Today's news is an example of this: A team from the University of Cambridge reversed paralysis in dogs after injecting them with cells grown from the lining of their nose (yes, you read that right).
Repairing Damage in the Nervous System
It's not quite as simple as it might first sound, and some injuries would be a lot harder to cure than others, but it is very promising.
Basically, the dogs had olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of their nose removed and then grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory. The researchers then transplanted the new nerve cells across the damaged region of the spinal cord.
Of 34 pet dogs on the proof of concept trial, 23 had the cells transplanted into the injury site - the rest were injected with a neutral fluid.
Many of the dogs that received the transplant showed considerable improvement and were able to walk on a treadmill with the support of a harness.
None of the control group regained use of its back legs.
Prof Geoffrey Raisman, chair of Neural Regeneration at University College London, who discovered olfactory ensheathing cells in 1985 told the BBC: "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."
Regenerative medicine FTW!