While a ten-year-old Australian Shepherd suffers with advanced arthritis that is most pronounced in the hips and elbows, the owners of the dog weigh all the pragmatic considerations of the various medical options that are available. At a total cost of $2,500, stem cell therapy is an appealing alternative to joint replacement, which costs approximately $5,000 per joint and which, until now, has been the only other type of therapy that was available for the most severe of arthritic conditions. Additionally, joint replacement often requires a long convalescence period, as much as six months or longer, while stem cell therapy has been shown to yield noticeable improvement almost immediately.
“Vet Stem Regenerative Cell” (VSRC) therapy is becoming increasingly common in the treatment of age-related arthritis as well as tendon and ligament injuries in domestic animals such as dogs and cats. The VSRCs are derived from the animal’s own fat, and as such these stem cells are readily and conveniently available from each animal. According to Jeff Peck, D.V.M., of the Affiliated Veterinary Specialists in Orlando, Florida, “It’s not from an embryo and it’s not from bone marrow. It’s taken from fat and that’s one of the huge advantages of it because, number one, you always have a donor.” After being isolated from the fat, the stem cells are injected directly into the afflicted joints of the animal, often with signs of immediate improvement. Six weeks after receiving the stem cell therapy, the ten-year-old Australian Shepherd who was previously unable to lay down or stand up without moaning in pain is now able to leap comfortably. Similar therapies are being translated into applications for people.
Human beings and their canine companions have enjoyed a long and ancient friendship, as both species have evolved together from prehistoric times, each learning to assist the other in their daily survival. The modern field of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy would now appear to be the latest chapter in this ongoing partnership.