Regenerative Medicine: Stem Cell Therapy In Veterinary Medicine

This season of YOUR LIFE REDEFINED – we’re taking a close look at how innovations in veterinary medicine are redefining animals lives. One special story that’s dear to my heart involves my six year old rescue lab Bucca. Bucca tore her cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) in her right rear leg-this ligament is equivalent to our anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Since Bucca’s CCL is completely torn-we’re moving forward with Dr. Sherman Canapp from VOSM performing the innovative Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) procedure on Bucca. If Bucca’s CCL was partially torn-she may have been a candidate for regenerative medicine. Imagine-they’re collecting stem cells from fat cells to treat ligament /tendon injuries, arthritis to even fractures!?What are stem cells?

Stem cells have been in the news in recent years because they can grow and differentiate into many types of cell types, with much promise for treating a variety of diseases and injuries. Mention the term “stem cells” to family and friends, though, and you are likely to get a variety of responses and opinions. Why is this? Probably because much of the early research on these cells originated from human embryos, and there are many ethical and legal debates about the procurement and usage of these cells.1

Scientists are now utilizing stem cells of different origins; opening up the research and treatment options for humans and pets. Differing from embryonic stem cells, adult stem cells are procured from a variety of tissues, including skin, fat (adipose) and bone marrow, among other tissues2. Adult stem cells are less controversial because the samples are easily obtained and the “host” is not destroyed, as with an embryo.

Stem cells can differentiate into many cell types as they develop, including bone, cartilage, nerves, muscle, and so on. Thus, treatment using stem cells is termed “regenerative medicine” and has many potential uses for a wide variety of diseases and injuries.

What type of stem cells are used to treat animals?

Treatment of injured racehorses began with adipose-derived stem cells. Now, both horses and dogs are being treated in veterinary clinics around the US. Adipose tissue is utilized because it is readily available and stem cells can be collected in large concentrations.

How are stem cells collected?

Adipose tissue is collected surgically by the referring veterinarian; only about two tablespoons of adipose are needed.

How are the stem cells processed?

Once the sample is collected, it is shipped overnight in specialized packaging to the laboratory. The next day, the stem cells are collected from the adipose tissue and shipped back to the veterinarian via overnight service. The next day (day 3), the veterinarian injects the cells into the injured tissue of the patient.

What diseases and injuries are currently treated with stem cell therapy?

Joint, bone and ligament injuries of horses and dogs are being treated with stem cell therapy at this time. This includes everything from arthritis to tendon/ligament injuries to fractures.

What are potential treatments with stem cell therapy?

Stem cell medicine holds much promise for a variety of diseases, including liver, kidney, heart, neurologic and immune-mediated diseases.

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