Ground-breaking stem cell treatment being used on dogs

December 18, 2009 9:07:08 PM PST
There's one area of medicine where vets may be ahead of physicians -- in stem cell therapy for arthritis and joint pain. Some Houston pets are already feeling the effects of stem cells injections. It's a treatment that's just become available here. The Canine Health Institute has performed six stem cell transplants on dogs. Sally is only a year old, but she has so much pain in her hips, she moves like an old dog.

Sally's owner Charlotte Liberda said, "We want her to run, to play, to jump on the bed."

Liberda, who rescued Sally from the pound, had an idea. She'd heard about stem cells and went to the Canine Health Institute in Houston to give it a shot. Stem cells are the same cutting edge human treatment that can also help dogs.

Dr. Adrianne Brode, DVM, explained, "Our main goal would be to treat orthopedic cases, arthritis, cruciate injuries, post-operative kind of things. Those are the kind of treatments we know that stem cells can make a big difference."

They get the stem cells from the fat in Sally's belly. They're using a machine that's used to get human stem cells and when they put the fat in, it separates the fat from the stem cells.

It's one of half a dozen machines in the world that can isolate stem cells right in the operating room. That saves having to do two surgeries on the animal. Four other stem cell machines like this one are in human hospitals, including Houston's Texas Heart Institute.

The separation procedure takes more than an hour. Dr. Brode counts the stem cells and gives Sally a shot of stem cells in each hip.

Daisy the beagle got stem cell therapy two weeks ago for pain after surgery.

Daisy's owner Suzanne Taylor said, "I noticed a dramatic improvement within one week after the procedure. She was able to walk on all four legs and she wasn't in so much pain and seemed much happier."

Dexter also had stem cell therapy for pain after surgery to repair a torn ligament.

"He was better, better, better," said Dexter's owner Kirby Attwell. "I'm hesitant because it's so soon after surgery, but he had a real improvement almost immediately."

"They're walking around better, not limping as much and they're all doing very good so far," Dr. Brode said.

This great idea of taking stem cells from your fat is being tested in humans here. Houston researchers at the Texas Heart Institute use the same machine to take stem cells from a patient's fat, and use them to strengthen the heart.


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