Implantation of olfactory ensheathing glia (OEG) is a promising strategy to augment long-distance regeneration in the injured spinal cord. In this study, implantation of OEG following unilateral hemisection of the dorsal cervical spinal cord was combined with ex vivo gene transfer techniques. We report, to our knowledge for the first time, that purified cultures of primary OEG are capable of expressing a foreign gene following adenoviral (AdV) and lentiviral (LV) vector-mediated gene transfer. OEG implants subjected to AdV vector-mediated gene transfer expressed high levels of transgenic protein in both intact and lesioned spinal cord at 7 days after implantation. However, the levels of transgene expression gradually declined between 7 and 30 days after implantation in lesioned spinal cord. Infection with LV vectors resulted in stable transduction of primary OEG cultures and transgene expression persisted for at least 4 months after implantation. Genetic engineering of OEG opens the possibility of expressing additional neurotrophic genes and create optimal 'bridging' substrates to support spinal axon regeneration. Furthermore, stable transduction of OEG allows us to reliably study the behaviour of implanted cells and to obtain better understanding of their regeneration supporting properties.