Stem cell therapy gives dogs new pep in their step

Linda Goldston, Mercury News
Cookie is a thirteen year-old Australian shepherd mix that has been having increasing trouble lying down and getting up. She could not walk down stairs and even during normal walks around the park her legs would give out. Cookie’s master, Ed Tani of Hayward was terrified that Cookie’s days were numbered. Ed then came across a revolutionary procedure for treating arthritic dogs called stem cell therapy. The treatment had been used with great success in horses for years, but more and more veterinarians are implementing the patented Vet-Stem Regenerative Cell therapy to their medical bag of tricks.
“This is an attempt to turn back time but without drugs,” said Brian Maxwell, a veterinarian whose specialty is orthopedic surgery at Adobe Animal Hospital in Los Altos, where Cookie’s joints were injected with her own stem cells this week.
The procedure of using stem cells to treat arthritis is based on the fact that stem cells have the ability to inhibit inflammation associated with arthritis, as well as to regenerate the injured cartilage. Vet-Stem uses stem cells derived from the fat tissue. Fat tissue contains stem cells that are called “mesenchymal” which are known to produce bone, cartilage, and other types of tissues. Additionally, mesenchymal stem cells also produce anti-inflammatory compounds such as interleukin-10.
Maxwell stated that “about 70 percent of the dogs treated show dramatic improvement; another 20 percent show moderate improvement”. Maxwell stated that of the 10 dogs that were treated so far, all but one of them improved. The dogs’ mobility was better and most of them were able to go off pain pills and anti-inflammatory medication, which can cause kidney and liver problems in many dogs.
“When she was 4 years old, she tore her ACL and had to have surgery,” said Wyle, a lecturer in Stanford University’s program in writing and rhetoric. “I thought, at that point, it was time to do it.”
The treatment of autologous fat stem cells have been performed by Vet-Stem since 2003. There have been numerous studies published by Vet-Stem regarding the treatment of dogs and horses using fat stem cells. For example in Black et al. Vet Ther. 2008 Fall;9(3):192-200, Dr. Harman’s group reported that “effectiveness of this therapy in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis of the humeroradial (elbow) joints and to determine the duration of effect. Fourteen dogs were recruited. Veterinarians assessed each dog for lameness, pain on manipulation, range of motion, and functional disability using a numeric rating scale at baseline and specified intervals up to 180 days after treatment. Statistically significant improvement in outcome measures was demonstrated.”

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