Stem Cell Replacement Therapy May Improve Your Dog’s Quality of Life
I am becoming more and more interested and intrigued with this modality of therapy. The use of stem cell therapy in dogs has been of interest to the medical field for many years. The internet has thousands and thousands of articles and an extensive data base this topic. There is overwhelming evidence throughout the world that the application of large numbers of stem cells to damaged tissue reduces discomfort and enhances the repair of such tissue
Stem cells exist in all mammalian bodies, humans, dogs, and cats. In fact, during the development of mammals in the uterus, stem cells are created that evolve into every cell in our bodies. They create brain cells, kidney cells, red blood cells, and so on. At birth, miraculously, all mammalian bodies are are complete and functional – all from stem cells. The stem cell is a base cell that bears the amazing ability to develop from a rudimentary cell, to the most remarkable high tech cell that our bodies need to build and function. After birth, our bodies keep on creating stem cells to provide repair and replacement when disease and injury damage the completed cells that were maintaining our normal function.
Understanding Stem Cells
So in the simplest of terms the original thought of researchers was if we could take a very large number of an individual stem cells, far more than the body would normally mobilize, then replicate those stem cells; and if we could direct them to an area of the body that was damaged or diseased, would this stem cell have a benefit on the damaged area. It turns out that is exactly what happens. That process has been refined and made available to help heal bodies. To what extent this process proceeds is still argued about; but no doubt remains that it is of major benefit.
Let’s leave the historic significance behind us for a moment and look to todays discussion as it applies to veterinary medicine. In the 1990’s a company known as Vet Stem began to apply the thought to animals. They harvested stem cells from horses, and relocated them to the damaged tendons, ligaments and joints in horses retired from racetrack injuries. Horses that previously were only able to putter around paddocks in retirement, made amazing improvements, including running again and even in some cases, winning races.
After careful evaluation of over 4000 horses, the company’s attention turned to dogs. They developed the procedures and set all the industry standards, and created a process for veterinarians to participate in early studies. In order to do so, veterinarians were required to qualify and be acredited by the company. Only then would they be considered committed to the project, and trained to participate in the program. Initially, all the work was directed to help dogs with joint disease and inflammation. It was fairly quickly apparent that dogs, in almost all cases, improved dramatically from receiving stem cells in large numbers placed in these joints directly. From those early days a process was established that streamlined the harvesting and application of stem cells.
Stem Cell Replacement Therapy
I have worked closely with Vet Stem, and I have treated a large number of pets in this manner with great success. The procedure initially requires harvesting the pets stem cells. This procedure has gone through modification over time, but briefly the largest accumulation of stem cells in dog is in the fat surrounding a ligament close to the abdominal wall where the umbilical cord connected to the liver. With a small incision, under sterile operating room conditions, the fat around what is called the falciform ligament is removed and loaded into special media vials. The patient is not compromised, and the procedure is very safe. In older patients, anesthesia is modified to provide absolute safely. Here’s how the process works:
- The fat containing the stem cells is packed in refrigerated containers and immediately picked by Fedex and delivered to the Vet Stem labs in California.
- The lab validate the cells, count them, and then reloads them in sterile syringes and immediately sends them back for me to instill into the damaged joints.
- This complete procedure takes place within 48 hours.
The result is usually a significant improvement in a patient, that is for instance, having difficulty with hip dysplasia. A reduction in, or removing pain medication altogether, can take place. The demeanor of the pet improves just by being more comfortable, and can take longer walks.
The initial harvested cells are, in most cases, far more than are needed for a treatment. Vet stem banks those extra cells, and will grow and replicate additional cells, if necessary. Harvesting is only required once in a lifetime.
Not all conditions are suited to stem cell therapy, and each patient must be evaluated thoroughly before embarking on this path. For example broken bones will not suddenly heal. Torn cruciate ligaments where joint instability has been created will require surgery. However stem cells will enhance healing following surgery. (there is really no such thing as fairy dust that fixes everything)
The use of stem cells is being studied in helping heart and kidney disease in pets, so stay tuned.