Can Dog Paralysis be Cured by Regenerative Medicine?

I am guessing that you might have heard about the exciting data about dogs with damaged spinal cords that were treated with regenerative medicine. As with all science, the devil is in the details.  Cure is a BIG concept.  The group in England presented data in the journal  Brain showing that a stem-like cell from the nervous tissue in the nose could be injected in the damaged spinal cord of dogs.  These cells apparently helped make connections between the rear and front feet to allow a more coordinated walking movement.  It is difficult to see from the single video (this might have been the best one) to tell how much the dogs were helped.  They do state that the dogs did not regain bowel or bladder control. This study was for the purpose of deciding if this therapy could some day help humans. For us, we are excited because it may help our four legged friends.

The dog in the video improved over six months to be able to walk with the hind legs mostly following the front.  It is a major advance, but far from a cure for paralysis.  The authors are realistic in stating: “..this intervention alone is unlikely to have appreciable benefits in the treatment of human spinal cord injury…”  The therapy helps the rear legs follow the front legs without re-connecting to the brain.  It would not likely help with the more complicated activities such as bladder control, hand motion, or sexual function.

Another interesting possibility presented by the authors is that “the precise type of cells in the transplant is not critical to the success of mucosal-derived transplants.”  Vet-Stem is exploring with the authors whether adipose stem cells might provide a similar benefit, as was shown in an article by Dr. Ryu (click here for link).

Science always brings hope, but it is important to realize the time lag of translating clinical trial data into real therapy for affected animals or humans.  We will update you as we determine if this method might be useful to our dog buddies in the near term.