Some pet parents would do anything to alleviate their furry companion’s pain—even try experimental stem-cell therapy.
When rehabilitation failed to fix ailing French bulldog Napolean, Madhu Garg took a novel approach.
“It’s actually waking up the body to its own healing mechanisms to bring other cells to the area to help the tissue to heal,” Leilani Alvarez, director of integrative and rehabilitative medicine at New York’s Animal Medical Center, explained of stem-cell therapy.
In Napolean’s case, stem cells extracted from his own body’s fat via surgery were injected into the area that needed treatment. Two years later, CBS New York reporteda healthy, happy pup.
Hopefully, he’s not the only one. Veterinarian Analisa Schilling is leading a study that swaps painful operations for treatment with stem cells from puppy umbilical cords, taken during cesarean sections by research and development company Animal Cell Therapies.
“I really hope that with the study we’re able to see if it actually benefits,” Schilling told CBS New York.
There is no question whether stem cells work: Vets have long been using them to treatosteoarthritis in dogs, as well as injuries to bones, joints tendons, ligaments, and the spinal cord. Early research also supports stem cell use in healing dogs’ dry eyes and oral disease stomatitis in cats.
Doctors hope to expand stem-cell therapy to one day treat chronic and autoimmune diseases.
Stem cell therapy, however, is not cheap (a course of two to three injections can run $2,000 or higher), nor is it a cure-all. So be sure to consult with your veterinarian before enrolling any pet in a clinical trial or sticking it with a needle.
Stem cells are like little blank slates, able to transform into any type of cell with the potential to regenerate diseased or damaged body tissue. The three most famous sources in adult humans come from bone marrow, adipose tissue, and blood.
In veterinary medicine, they can be used for hard-tissue, ligament, and tendon, or muscle repairs, as well as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS).