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A new treatment for severe spinal cord injury

At Cambridge Veterinary School we are investigating cell transplantation (moving cells from one region of the body to another) as a means to improve the outcome following severe spinal injuries in dogs

Although dogs with any type of spinal injury are potential candidates for this new treatment, it will not be necessary for the majority of cases, since most will recover satisfactorily with currently routine medicine or surgery. The cases we are investigating are those that have had especially severe injuries whether recently or in the past - and would not be expected to recover, or who have already failed to recover, with conventional therapy.

The procedure is based on methods, carried out elsewhere, that produced remarkable improvement in the ability of rats to walk after spinal cord injury. Cells are collected from inside the skull (at the back of the nose) and, after increasing the cell numbers and purifying them, placed into the damaged region of the spinal cord. The removal of cells from inside the skull can be accomplished without post-operative problems and the spinal operation is routine. At the Vet School there is a great deal of expertise in anaesthetics, pain relief and nursing care of spinally-injured dogs so we can ensure that each dog in this study receives top quality medical care and post-operative distress and suffering is avoided.

The potential of this procedure is enormous, although we cannot guarantee that the outcome following this new type of surgery will be as good as that obtained in rats; the purpose in carrying out this study is to test how good it is. We feel that it is an important study, since a positive result after this cellular transplantation therapy in a test group of dogs would have a dramatic impact on treatment of spinal cord injury in both dogs and human patients. Because we have received funding from a spinal cord injury charity and the Kennel Club the procedure can be offered at a minimal cost.

Dr Nick Jeffery, Lecturer in Clinical Neurology, Dept Clinical Veterinary Medicine, Cambridge CB3 0ES e-mail:

Phone: 01223 339969  // Fax: 01223 337017