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Cell transplant lets paralysed dog walk

Paralysed dogs began to walk again after they were injected with cells grown from the lining of their nose, according to Cambridge University scientists. The pets had all suffered spinal injuries, which prevented them from using their back legs. The team hopes that the technique could eventually have a role in the treatment of human patients, the BBC reported.

The study, which has been published in the neurology journal Brain, is also the first to test the transplant in “real-life” injuries rather than laboratory animals. The only part of the body where nerve fibres continue to grow in adults is the olfactory system.

 Found at the back of the nasal cavity, olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC) surround the receptor neurons that both enable us to smell and convey these signals to the brain. The nerve cells need constant replacement, which is promoted by the OECs.

In the study, funded by the Medical Research Council, the dogs had olfactory ensheathing cells from the lining of their nose removed. These were grown and expanded for several weeks in the laboratory.

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.

Cancer-promoting` protein holds promise for Alzheimer’s

Danish scientists have found that a “harmful” protein that is known to spread cancer cells around the body could hold the key to allowing the brain to repair itself.

The finding is a potentially significant breakthrough in the treatment of severe brain injuries and could help those suffering from neurodegenerative disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, said the scientists at the University of Copenhagen.

They found that the protein S100A4 plays a crucial role in brain protection and repair.
Scientists have known the protein as a key factor in metastasis, or the spread of cancer. It is not found in the brains of healthy individuals.

“This protein is not normally in the brain, only when there’s trauma or degeneration,” the Daily Express quoted lead researcher Oksana Dmytriyeva as saying. “When we deleted the protein in mice, we discovered their brains were less protected and less able to resist injury. We were surprised to find this protein in this role as we thought it was purely a cancer protein.

“We are very excited and hope the finding will eventually benefit people who need treatment for neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s, though obviously we have a long way to go,” Dmytriyeva added.

The scientists also found the protein “activates” previously disabled signalling pathways in the brain.

Smartphone screen that can identify knuckle touch

A computer scientist has built a prototype smartphone that can differentiate between touches from the knuckle, fingertip and even fingernail.

Chris Harrison from Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, modified a Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone to run on his FingerSense software. The modified Smartphone has a small vibration sensor that looks for the acoustic and vibrational differences between the three types of touch.

For example, a fingertip could help select an object while a knuckle tap could act like the right-click on a computer mouse and open up a submenu. “A big problem with touchscreens right now is that they are very simplistic, relative to the capability of our hands,” Harrison said.

“We could do so much more,” he said.
He said that the sensor is a standard piece of electronics, which could be added to any Smartphone’s main circuit board.

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