Monday, March 23, 2009

Stem Cell Treatment for Arthritis in Pets

Stem Cell Treatments Used To Ease Arthritis In Pets
Posted on: Tuesday, 17 March 2009, 14:00 CDT Related Video
A new procedure that uses stem cells obtained from fat is providing relief for pets suffering from the aches and pains of arthritis and other ailments.
The procedure, marketed by a company called Vet-Stem Inc. in San Diego, involves injecting dogs with stem cells obtained from fat. It was initially used in horses in 2003, according to the company’s founder and veterinarian Bob Harman.
"Six years later we treated over 3,000 horses from the United States with every kind of injury, from a bad tear of the tendon or ligament to bad arthritis," Harman told the Austin American Statesman.
The company is the first in the nation to offer stem cell treatments using fat tissue for dogs and cats, according to Julie Ryan of Vet-Stem.
After receiving many requests, the company began providing four-hour training sessions on the procedure to veterinarians a year ago.
Three-year-old Samson, a Newfoundland, was still limping badly on one side after undergoing surgery to remove bone fragments in his front legs.
The fragments had caused arthritis in his right leg, Susie Lynch, his owner, told the Austin American-Statesman.
"He was just pretty much laying around all the time," she added.
Then Lynch saw a program on ABC News' "Nightline" about a procedure for dogs that helped ease arthritis by obtaining stem cells from fat in the dogs’ bodies and injecting the cells into the injured areas.
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Lynch turned to Lynne Boggs, an Austin, TX-based veterinarian trained in the Vet Stem procedure, and Samson underwent the operation last November.
“It worked,” Lynch said.
"It was amazing.”
"In about 10 days it was like he had a whole different personality; he was energetic.”
“After six weeks, Samson was limping less and less.”
"He prances around and runs and plays with other dogs now," she said.
American Veterinary Association spokesman Michael San Filippo said the group is aware of the procedure, and supports the use of stem cells for animal health. While the association would like to see additional research on the procedure, "anecdotally, we have heard from several pet owners that it does work," he said.
The Vet-Stem procedure costs roughly $2,500- $3,500, according to Harman.
Veterinarians obtain fat from part of a dog's body and send a syringe of it to the company in San Diego. Then, in a four-hour procedure, Vet-Stem uses a digestive enzyme that isolates the stem cells from the fat. These stem cells are then shipped back to the veterinarian overnight, so the cells can be injected into the injured part of a dog’s body the following day.
Harman said the procedure helps reduce swelling and creates new blood vessels and tissue.
"We've treated over 1,500 dogs with arthritis," he said.
Boggs, the Austin, TX-based vet who treated Samson, said she removed a clump of fat from the dog’s abdomen for the procedure because that area has a very high concentration of stem cells.
Samson has improved significantly since the surgery but has not been completely cured, she said.
"The limp has gone to something anyone can see to something I can see; it's much more subtle," she told the Austin American Statesman.
Prior the undergoing the procedure, Samson could walk less than a block before he began limping badly, said Lynch.
But now, "I can walk him as far as I want now."
Boggs said that while some dogs respond very well to the Vet-Stem procedure, others don't respond at all. She used the procedure on another dog with hip arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, and it ended up helping only with the bowel problem, she added.
"There's no way to know before you go into it," she said.
The primary risk for the dog is in being anesthetized for fat removal, she said.
"I haven't used it enough to say it will be the answer to whatever the problem is," Boggs said.
"I'm game to keep on trying it with owners that understand what's going on."
On the Net:
Vet-Stem Inc.
American Veterinary Association