Stem cell research is changing veterinary medicine. Unlike bone marrow transplants or cord-derived stem cells, a new method of obtaining and purifying cells from fat is gaining popularity. Adipose-derived procedures, as they are also known, have only been performed on humans in research trials at Universities. Treating animals this way, however, has become possible in local veterinary hospitals across the country.
Until this surgery was available, most animals with severe arthritis were treated with a combination of medications and sometimes acupuncture. The main downside with this traditional approach is that pain medications can have adverse effects on body organs and become less effective over time. Max, a Labrador retriever with osteoarthritis, had experienced symptoms so severe that he could barely walk.
His family had tried multiple medications, none of which were working, and were debating whether or not they should put him to sleep. They asked their Vet if stem cell therapy might help. It turns out he was a good candidate because although he had arthritis, he had no structural or neurological damage. One month after Max's stem cell therapy, he was able to walk. Stem cell therapy is used for partial ligament tears, auto-immune disorders, kidney disease, irritable bowel syndrome, and osteoarthritis. Since stem cells have the ability not only to repair, but to also regenerate tissue, they are actually capable of reversing damage. The extraction process is most commonly done from behind the shoulder blade. The harvested fat is then put through a purification process, which is able to separate the stem cells from the tissue. The isolated cells are then injected intravenously or directly into damaged joints. This groundbreaking technology has already produced tremendous results and there are many new developments we are likely to see in the future.