An eleven-year-old golden retriever named KC is now running and jumping around actively and painlessly, as any dog half his age might do. Merely 3 months ago, however, KC could not even walk without difficulty.
According to the dog’s owner, Krista Moyes, “He likes to swim and run and he’s very active. I just wanted to do whatever I could. He was having a hard time getting up in the morning and really wasn’t walking at all on his back leg. “KC was suffering from a combination of injuries and age-related arthritic joint degeneration, and because of the dog’s advanced age, surgery was not a viable option. Ms. Moyes therefore took KC to a veterinary specialist in Sonora to explore alternative options.
According to veterinarian Dr. Lillian Rizzo, “We had some chronic old injuries, some chronic arthritis, decreased range of motion and pain in that right leg.” Consequently, Dr. Rizzo suggested an adult stem cell therapy which has shown great success in treating a variety of tendon, ligament and joint injuries in small animals such as cats and dogs and also in large animals such as horses. Developed by the company Vet-Stem, the procedure is fast, simple and minimally invasive, requiring only that the vet extract some fat tissue from the animal which is then sent to Vet-Stem where technicians isolate and expand the stem cells from the fat, and return the cells to the vet who injects them directly into the site of injury. As Dr. Rizzo explains, “I send the fat to [Vet-Stem] and they turn it around back to me in the form of an injection syringe within 48 hours. I concentrate the stem cells at the site of injury and then the stem cells mediate inflammation and repair. The injury is to the joint cartilage and that’s really the only thing that can do that. The medications can help with pain and support but the stem cells actually rebuild the damaged joint cartilage.” Another advantage to the therapy is that results are usually seen so quickly that pain medication is no longer needed once the adult stem cell therapy is actually administered.
As any modern, well-informed, scientifically savvy, 21st century patient would do, KC underwent the adult stem cell therapy with eagerness and enthusiasm. According to the dog’s owner, Ms. Moyes, “Two weeks after the surgery I looked at him one day and he was standing on his foot instead of just his toe. I really noticed an attitude change as far as his energy level. He felt better so he was wrestling, carrying on and playing.”
Since Vet-Stem’s therapy uses stem cells that are derived from the animal’s own fat, such stem cells are strictly and exclusively classified as adult stem cells, not embryonic stem cells. Even in animals, as with humans, embryonic stem cells are not available as clinical therapies since embryonic stem cells are inherently very problematic and pose a number of life-threatening risks, including the formation of teratomas which are a type of tumor with very specific, and grotesque, characteristics. Adult stem cells, by sharp contrast, are not scientifically problematic and, most notably, adult stem cells do not carry the risk of teratoma formation nor any of the other dangers which thus far are inextricably tied to embryonic stem cells. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that adult stem cells are already available as viable clinical therapies in the treatment of a wide range of diseases and injuries, for humans as well as for animals, whereas any hope of any clinical therapy ever being developed from embryonic stem cells is at least another decade away, if not further.
As any dog owner can testify, the question has often been posed as to who, exactly, is training whom, in the symbiotic evolution of humans and their canine friends. At least in the case of adult stem cell therapy, perhaps the two-legged species can learn and benefit from the noble example of its four-legged faithful companion.