Jasper the dachshund’s trotting and playing is testament to the success of some extraordinary medical research.
A year ago he suffered a slipped disc in his back, which damaged his spinal chord. With his back legs paralysed his owners had to wheel him around on a trolley.
Jasper’s condition deteriorated rapidly, but he underwent pioneering treatment.
Special cells from his nose were injected into his spine.
One of Jasper’s owners, May Hay, explained: “Once they’re not walking properly it goes on very quickly and then suddenly their hind quarters are dragging and you know you’ve got a mega problem.”
With their long backs, dachshunds are particularly prone to spinal injuries. Jasper had already undergone medical treatment.
“(There was) just nothing in his hind legs, just going flat along the floor,” Mrs Hay went on. “It’s very distressing for them, they don’t understand what the heck has happened and for the owner too, it’s nightmare time.”
A doggie trial at Cambridge University comprised 34 pets. Many of those that received the special olfactory cell transplant were eventually able to walk on a treadmill with the help of a harness, and some – like Jasper – regained use of their back legs.
Jasper’s other owner, Peter Hay, said: “He’s just a functioning dog now, he walks with the other dogs, he does on exactly the same length of walk, he goes into the same ditches, he comes out of them. It’s just another dog.”
The big question is whether or not this treatment can be used in humans.
The co-author of the report, Professor Robin Franklin, was cautious.
“It is not a red light, it’s a green light,” he said. “So one might expect there to be some degree of improvement in humans if this intervention were used. However the light is not quite as bright as we would like because many of the functions that are lost in spinal injury aren’t restored by this particular intervention.”
There is still a way to go before the technique might benefit humans but it is a step in the right direction.