Zack was suffering from a number of degenerative osteoarthritis conditions, despite the fact that he is only 14 years old. Of course, for a dog, 14 is not young. Fortunately for Zack, however, his owner decided to allow him to try stem cell therapy.
According to Deanna Winter, Zack’s owner who is also a doctor for people, "His main problem is arthritis. Trouble walking, trouble sitting and going upstairs." Furthermore, she adds, "His belly was almost touching the ground because he couldn’t hold his hips up. His quality of life was going down. He couldn’t make it around the block anymore."
Dr. Benjamin Ealing at Broad Ripple Animal Clinic in Indianapolis, not far from Zack’s home, has already used autologous adult stem cell treatment on 13 other dogs, successfully in each case. Dr. Ealing surgically removes abdominal fat from the dog, "which about fits in the palm of your hand and fills up two tubes", he describes. The adipose tissue is then shipped to the Vet-Stem laboratories in California where the stem cells are isolated, purified, expanded and returned to Dr. Ealing within 48 hours, already in syringes and ready to be injected into the site of the afflicted joints – which in Zack’s case were a hip and a shoulder. Although results are usually noticeable immediately, the greatest results take about 2 weeks to manifest. Now, two months later, Zack "can walk and he can sit and he can jump and he can go up stairs", as Deanna describes.
As Dr. Ealing adds, "The stem cells are the body’s own natural healing cells. Those cells then recruit the body’s own natural healing cells to come to that area, reduce inflammation, potentially to regenerate damaged tissue."
By now, Zack’s story is becoming an increasingly familiar one. As previously reported a number of times on this website, the company Vet-Stem continues to see consistently high success rates in both canine and equine clinical applications, with an 80% efficacy rate and a 100% safety rate in the animals that are treated with Vet-Stem’s autologous adult stem cell procedure. In other words, 80% of the animals treated are found to experience improvement in their condition with a reduction and often a full elimination of the need for medication, while adverse side effects have not been reported in any of the treated animals.
Since Vet-Stem first began marketing their services, they have now treated more than 2,000 dogs and more than 3,000 horses with autologous adult stem cells, extracted from each animal’s own fat. The procedure is quick, simple, minimally invasive, safe, highly effective, and while it is not cheap, it is less expensive than conventional surgical and pharmaceutical therapies which may not be effective at all. The first stem cell extraction and transplant for a dog typically run between $2,500 and $3,500, although the second transplant will often cost much less since extraction is only necessary once. The entire stem cell extraction procedure consists of the approximate equivalent of 2 to 3 tablespoons of the animal’s own adipose (fat) tissue which is surgically removed under anesthesia and shipped overnight to Vet-Stem’s laboratories in southern California where the stem cells are processed and returned two days later to the veterinarian who injects the stem cells back into the animal. Not only do the stem cells automatically target the injured tissue, but they also stimulate other endogenous stem cells which in turn are mobilized into action and participate in the healing and repair process. Although improvements are usually dramatic and immediate, even after the first injection, additional injections may be necessary, depending upon the age and condition of the animal. Very few animals ever need more than a total or 2 or 3 treatments, however, before they are fully restored to their natural, pain-free state of mobility – which contrasts sharply with conventional therapies such as most prescription medications which may need to be taken indefinitely, without ever producing any tangible signs of improvement and while even possibly causing further damage to the animal through dangerous side effects and other associated risks.
Vet-Stem uses exclusively adult stem cells, derived from each animal’s own tissue. Since the cells are autologous (in which the donor and recipient are the same animal), there is no risk of immune rejection. More specifically, the stem cells that are harvested in Vet-Stem’s procedure are mesenchymal stem cells, which are highly potent adult stem cells that are also found in bone marrow and umbilical cord blood. Numerous scientific and clinical studies have been published in the peer-reviewed medical literature detailing the regenerative properties of mesenchymal stem cells. No embryonic stem cells are ever used in Vet-Stem’s therapies, since embryonic stem cells are highly problematic in the laboratory, whether they are of human or non-human origin. Among other problems, the risk of teratoma (tumor) formation disqualifies embryonic stem cells for use as a clinical therapy, even in animals. Adult stem cells, however, do not pose such risks and are therefore rapidly accumulating a consistent history of successful clinical treatments in veterinary, as well as in human, medicine.
A number of companies throughout the world are replicating the procedure pioneered by Vet-Stem. It is fortunate – not only for Zack but also for his 2-legged friends who learn from his example – that such companies are able to conduct their business without the same burdensome federal legislation that continues to impede progress in human medical adult stem cell therapies in the United States.
(Please see a number of other related news article on this website, which include but are not limited to the most recent one entitled, "Veterinary Stem Cell Therapies Translate into Human Therapies", dated July 14, 2009).