Stem cells in canine and equine medicine
Imagine a dog regrowing a limb that had to be amputated after being hit by a car. Salamanders do it – why not our beloved horses? Urodele amphibians (eg, salamanders and newts) can regenerate complex tissues that are identical to the original in both appearance and function.
Although not fully understood, the process of regeneration occurs as a result of dedifferentiation of the cells at the amputation site into a mass of stem-like cells. This blastema then reforms into all the components of the missing limb: bone, muscle, nerves, and blood vessels.
Stem Cells Explained
Science may not have dogs regrowing lost legs just yet, but a similar premise has driven investigations into stem cell therapy. Stem cells are unspecialized cells with the ability to differentiate into specialized building blocks of organs and tissues. They fall under 2 classifications: embryonic stem cells, derived from 2- to 11-day-old blastocytes, and postnatal stem cells – also called somatic or adult stem cells – found in most adult tissues.
Whereas embryonic stem cells are totipotent – capable of differentiating into any cell type – adult stem cells are multipotent, capable of differentiating into more than 1 but not all cell types. Adult stem cells are normally activated following an injury. Stem cells at the site of the injury self-renew, each undergoing cell division to give rise to a daughter stem cell and a progenitor cell, an intermediate cell type that transforms to the fully differentiated state.
Use in Health Care
When used in therapeutic applications, stem cells are generally harvested from bone marrow (femur of dogs and cats, the sternum of horses) or adipose tissue (inguinal region of dogs and cats, dorsal surface of the gluteus maximus of horses). Because the fibroblastic phase of tissue healing occurs within a few weeks after an injury is sustained, stem cell therapy is most efficacious when administered during that time frame. Stem cells have been used successfully during the acute inflammatory stage of an injury, but once the bone has remodeled or tissue has matured, the utility of stem cell therapy falls significantly.
In both veterinary and human medicine, stem cell therapy has been studied in varied conditions, including cancer, heart disease, immune disorders, Alzheimer and Parkinson diseases, blindness, and diabetes. One of its most widespread uses is in bone marrow transplantation, which has been in regular clinical practice for treating cancer in humans for more than 30 years.
In the veterinary world, stem cell therapy has been used primarily in soft tissue injury and wound healing.
Tendon and ligament lesions in sports horses are common and often career ending, so stem cell therapy has a particular appeal and has received the most attention in that area. Common clinical uses involve treating overstrain injuries of the palmar metacarpal tendons and ligaments.
In one of the largest studies of stem cell therapy, 113 race-horses with an injury to the superficial digital flexor tendon demonstrated a re-injury rate of 27% after bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell therapy, which was statistically significantly lower than the reinjury rate in historic controls (50%-60%).
These results were confirmed in a study of dressage and show jumping horses with suspensory ligament desmitis (n = 68) or superficial digital flexor tendon tendinitis (n = 36). The findings showed that 2 years after allogeneic tenogenically induced mesenchymal stem cell therapy was administered 5 days after injury, more than 80% of horses returned to their previous level of performance, and reinjury rates were 18% compared with 44% for conventional treatments.
In a retrospective chart review of 52 warmblood horses diagnosed with a variety of conditions (such as tendinitis of either the superficial or deep digital flexor tendon, or desmitis of either the suspensory or the inferior check ligament) and treated with allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells derived from umbilical cord blood, 77% returned to work at the same or a higher level.
Stem Cell Therapy for your horse
Stem cell therapy is emerging as another weapon in the veterinarian’s arsenal, joining the numerous pharmacotherapeutics, surgical procedures, and mechanical devices employed to help patients return to full function or at least a more comfortable life. Help your horse to be one of them!
Medrego is the leading Stem Cell provider in Northern Europe with a portfolio of hundreds of horses that improved quality of life and returned to work with the help of Medrego EquiCell allogeneic stem cell therapy for horses. Contact us, and we will tell you more about how exactly our stem cell therapy can help in improving your horse’s health condition.