Dogs with damage to their spines have recovered the use of their hind legs, after scientists injected them with cells from their noses.
The British team behind the pioneering technique believe it could lead to improvements in the treatment of humans with spinal injuries, the BBC reports.
A 10-year-old daschund called Jasper was one of 34 dogs who took part in the research. Placed on a treadmill at the start of the study, he could only walk using his front legs with a harness supporting his hind quarters. He dragged his back legs.
Jasper was then injected with cells from the lining of his nose called olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) and six months later back on the treadmill with a harness he was walking on all four legs. Owner May Hay says he's now whizzing around the house.
The study, funded by the Medical Research Council and published in the neurology journal Brain, is the first to test the transplant in "real-life" injuries rather than laboratory animals.
Cells from the dogs' noses were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory. Many of the animals given 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.
The research was a collaboration between the MRC's Regenerative Medicine Centre and Cambridge University's Veterinary School.
Professor Robin Franklin, a regeneration biologist and co-author of the report said: "We're confident that the technique might be able to restore at least a small amount of movement in human patients with spinal cord injuries, but that's a long way from saying they might be able to regain all lost function."
The procedure might be used alongside drug treatments to promote nerve fibre regeneration and bioengineering to substitute damaged neural networks, he said.