Doctors in Britain could soon start clinical trials of a revolutionary technique which may help people who are paralysed.
It follows successful tests on rats by experts at the National Institute for Medical Research.
They repaired damaged spinal cords in rats by injecting cells taken from nerves in the nose.
Work is now underway in preparation for a trial in humans, possibly in as little as two years.
The technique involves removing olfactory ensheathing cells from the nose.
These cells are found in nerves which connect the nose with the brain and allow people to smell.
We are probably two to three years away
Dr Geoffrey Raisman,
National Institute for Medical Research
Unlike most other cells in the body, they regenerate throughout life.
The cells are then injected into points in the spine where damage has occurred.
They provide a bridge enabling spinal nerves to grow and potentially to re-connect, alleviating or perhaps even curing paralysis.
The technique is currently being tested on humans by doctors in Australia.
They announced plans last year to recruit eight people to take part in a trial.
Dr Geoffrey Raisman, who led the study at the National Institute for Medical Research, said British trials could start shortly.
"There is still work to be done," he told BBC News Online.
"My guess is we are probably two to three years away. It could be less."
Dr Raisman said it was important that all the necessary work was done before doctors proceeded to test the technique on humans.
"We will only get one shot at a clinical trial. If we mess it up, that is it. We have to make sure that we get it right," he said.
Dr Raisman is now in discussions with the Institute of Neurology at University College London about a possible human trial.
He suggested that six patients could be selected to take part.
Among those who could benefit from the procedure is actor Christopher Reeve, who was injured in a riding accident.
The study is published in the journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.