The goal of this study was to ascertain whether olfactory ensheathing cells (OECs) were able to promote axonal regeneration and functional recovery when transplanted 45 days after complete transection of the thoracic spinal cord in adult rats. OECs promoted partial restitution of supraspinal pathways evaluated by motor evoked potentials and modest recovery of hindlimb movements. In addition, OEC grafts reduced lumbar reflex hyperexcitability from the first month after transplantation. Histological results revealed that OECs facilitated corticospinal and raphespinal axons regrowth through the injury site and into the caudal spinal cord segments. Interestingly, raphespinal but not corticospinal fibers regenerated long distances through the gray matter and reached the lower lumbar segments (L5) of the spinal cord. However, delayed OEC grafts failed to reduce posttraumatic astrogliosis. In conclusion, the beneficial effects found in the present study further support the use of OECs for treating chronic spinal cord injuries. © 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.