Researchers at the University of Cambridge said the pet dogs had all suffered serious damage to their spinal cords that left them unable to walk normally with their hind legs.
After specialized cells from the dogs' noses were transplanted to the damaged nerves, most of the pets recovered their lost mobility and some were able to walk and even run on all four legs, The Independent reported Monday.
The technique, in which olfactory ensheathing cells from the nasal cavity are transplanted to the spinal cord, could have human applications, the researchers said.
"Our findings are extremely exciting because they show for the first time that transplanting these types of cell into a severely damaged spinal cord can bring about significant improvement," Cambridge researcher Robin Franklin said.
Olfactory ensheathing cells protect the regrowth of nerve cells in the olfactory center just below the brain, cells that must be able to regenerate because they are susceptible to damage from the outside environment, Franklin 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 that they might be able to regain all lost functions," he said.