New stem cell therapy for pets
Treatment has potential to reverse effects of arthritis without drugs or surgery.
Wed, Aug 11 2010 at 7:36 PM
An emerging subset of stem cell research has given hope to pet owners and veterinary practices. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Australian company MediVet is "about to introduce a same-day stem cell therapy procedure for [animals] to treat ... degenerative conditions."
In practice, this means that dog owners can treat their pets' arthritis, a common ailment among canines. According to the article, almost 30 percent of cats and dogs suffer from this condition later in life. The article cites the example of a Pittsburgh-based collie named Samantha, who had been in such pain that she was unable to climb on a sofa (her owners even installed ramps throughout the house to help their beloved pet). The dog participated in the stem cell treatment and can now "bound" up flights of stairs.
The Post-Gazette article says the procedure takes fat cells from the pet and separates the stem cells. Then, MediVet's patented technology "involving light-emitting diodes activiat[es] and reinfus[es] the cells in the animal." Cranberry veterinarian Mike Hutchinson told the Post-Gazette that the new process helps him collect thousands more stem cells than old methods, which means he has greater chances to "repair and regenerate the animal's cartilage and bone."
The therapy uses no drugs other than anesthetic. Stem cell therapy has been available for pets for some time, but it used to mean sending samples away for about double the cost of the new, $1,700 procedure. MediVet sells their specialized equipment to vets around the world. According to the story, the machinery is worthwhile for vets, who can earn $300,000 from doing five stem-cell procedures per week.
Hutchinson finds the treatment valuable because the animals show "marked improvement" within a few hours. He told the Post-Gazette that the animals feel so great after the stem cell therapy, they risk injuring themselves with too much activity too soon.
The article cautions that not all animals are great candidates for stem cell therapy, and that issues of weight (for instance) need to be addressed before sampling the treatment. But the new technology offers an alternative to medication and surgery, which means healthier animals that can avoid prolonged treatments.