UPDATED: Friday, April 13, 2012 - 8:54am
COLLEGE STATION -- According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center in Birmingham, there are more than 12,000 new cases of spinal cord injuries every year.
And with no cure for the prognosis, as many as 200,000 Americans suffer from partial or full paralysis but some innovative research happening right here at Texas A&M's Small Animal Clinic could bring researchers one step closer to finding a way for humans to walk again.
Dr. Jonathan Levine, an assistant professor of neurology at Texas A&M's College of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences, is giving new meaning to the old saying "man's best friend."
"It's our way to have a direct impact to patient care and potentially to the care of humans who are affected," said Levine. "Really the extension of the human-animal bond."
Funded by a $750,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Dr. Levine will be leading a three-year clinical trial on dogs will spinal cord injuries.
"The dogs have to be not walking at the time of enrollment and they have to have injury due to disk herniation, which is the most common kind of injury that we see."
Half of the dogs will be injected with a drug called GM6001 that's been proven to block an enzyme found in the body after trauma, which makes the injury worse.
And with intensive therapy and rehabilitation, Dr. Levine hopes the canines will be able to regain partial or even full mobility back.
"We'll look at how they are recovering in terms of their urinary abilities and movement and then we'll see them back in a follow up period at about six weeks after injury."
And director of the Texas Brian and Spine Institute and St. Joseph neurosurgeon Dr. Jonathan Friedman hopes Levine's research could one day lead to human trial.
"Any advance, even if it meant a small recovery of function, would be a huge difference from what we have now and you can imagine what that might mean to a patient. To go from paralysis to partial paralysis could mean the world of difference."