Stem Cells Save Animals
Reported September 2009
DAVIS, Calif. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- They're our companions, helpers and exercise partners -- but when our animals struggle to jump and even get up, it may be their way of telling you their joints are wearing out. Traditionally, joint injuries meant a low quality of life or euthanasia -- but advances in veterinary medicine are making it possible to heal arthritis, tendinitis and even broken bones … with their own cells. Human science is helping animals and may come back around to help us, too.
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Kentucky Derby champion Barbaro was a superstar -- until a leg fracture ended his career and further complications from the injury led to his death. It's an all-too-common tragedy that strikes one of nature's most majestic animals.
"The joint is a very delicate environment in horses," Martin Vidal, D.V.M., a veterinarian at the UC Davis Center for Equine Health in Davis, Calif., told Ivanhoe.
Joint injuries can put horses permanently on the sidelines or make it impossible to walk and survive. Therapies are limited, but researchers are now testing stem cells to stimulate healing.
Phil the horse is getting a stem cell injection today for his lame knee. The cells come from his own bone marrow, extracted two weeks ago.
"The hope is that the stem cells will incite a reparative process," Dr. Vidal said.
It's science that's also giving researchers a better idea of how the treatment could help humans.
"The horse has, perhaps, more appropriate mechanical demands that would be comparable to a human," Dr. Vidal said.
Veterinarians hope the treatment will help Phil as much as a similar treatment helped 10-year-old Australian shepherd Maggie. Within six weeks of an injection of stem cells harvested from her own fat, she went from struggling to get up to hiking and playing.
"We know we're not going to make those tissues normal, but it will suppress inflammation, slow the progression of degenerative changes in many cases, and also provide pain relief," Jeff Peck, D.V.M., a veterinarian at Affiliated Veterinary Specialists in Orlando, Fla., told Ivanhoe.
The pain relief is all Maggie needed to get back on the trail to her golden years.
Researchers recently started using stem cells to treat tendon ligament injuries in horses and are also investigating the treatment in the repair of bone fractures, which often lead to lameness in a horse's other uninjured legs. Stem cell therapy is available for dogs to treat arthritis as well as tendon and ligament injuries and costs about $2,000 to $4,000.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Martin Vidal, BVSc, MS, PhD, DACVS
Veterinary Orthopedic Surgeon
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