Stem Cell treatment isn’t the only radical success veterinarians are offering animals today.
With the facilitation of new technology, thousands of dogs, cats and horses are battling triumphantly against degenerative disorders, such as arthritis, hip dysplasia and degenerative disc diseases.
Performed by leading orthopedic surgeons, adult stem cell treatments have become more apparent than ever before, and because they only utilize the cells from an adult animal, aren’t as controversial as their embryonic counterparts. Although most practices are still being researched since treatments began in 2004 , they’re already producing extraordinary results for animals with conditions such as dysplasia, an abnormality in maturation of cells within a tissue, by contributing to the quality of life, while still allowing for natural functioning of the body.
While it may sound complicated, stem cell treatments are quite simple to perform. The process involves extracting adult cells from the animal’s own belly fat, and then injecting them back into the problem areas where they aid in rehabilitation. Performed in two separate procedures, the fat cells are first sent to stem cell laboratories, such as Vet-Stem located in Poway, California, where extraction of stem cells are extracted from tissues and then returned to veterinary hospitals for treatment. The procedures are quick, painless and without great risk.
Affiliated Veterinary Specialists (AVS), a specialty hospital in Central Florida, houses state of the art equipment and board-certified specialists. It has so far conducted eight successful adult stem cell procedures on horses and dogs. “Typically, we see improvements within 2 to 4 weeks after procedures,” says Dr. Jaceck de Haan, AVS surgeon and certified stem cell professional. “Compared to more aggressive treatment alternatives for dysplasia, the recovery period is significantly less than that of a total hip replacement, which can take over four months for recovery.”
Stem cell treatments are also cost effective. Generally they range from $2500 to $4000 per procedure, versus $5000 or more to provide a complete hip replacement. Unfortunately, like most donor procedures, stem cell treatments may not entirely solve the problem for every animal, but nor do total bone replacements.
Dr. Derek Fox, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons and an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Missouri’s veterinary hospital in Columbia, believes if traditional approaches to regenerative medicine are unsuccessful, using stem cell treatments can be extremely practical, and produce terrific results for pets. “I think there’s a lack of adequate research on stem cell treatments, which is why it’s still so infrequently utilized in human medicine,” he says. “I do have high hopes that it will continue to show promising results towards veterinary practices. I don’t believe there’s any greater risk of complication with stem cells than there is for any other surgical procedure used to address the problem.”
The Humane Society of the United States believes stem cell therapy will bring great advancement to degenerating animals. Homeless pet rescues and shelters haven’t used stem cell treatments because they aren’t being performed outside traditional veterinary practices just yet. Perhaps, in time, treatments will become more prevalent in the lives of homeless pets.
Stem cell treatments aren’t the only new advancement in modern veterinary practice, as animals are also finding relief from artificial joint replacements. Although total hip replacements are commonly performed, total elbow replacements are quite recent to the veterinary field. Recently, researchers have accomplished this procedure by reforming elbows with artificial replacements of the joint. Metal is inserted within the joint of the elbow and structured to support the bones as a natural joint would. Regrettably, this type of procedure doesn’t work as well on larger animals who only benefit from the structure for several years before the metal begins to weaken or deteriorate from weighted pressure. Nonetheless, customizing the joint for smaller animals fabricates a quality of movement that animals would not benefit from otherwise.
Another innovative procedure that Dr. Adam Aulbach, a clinical pathologist and former resident of Michigan State’s veterinary college, has high hopes for is called Small Intestine Sub-Mucosa (SIS). SIS is very similar to the stem cell process in that it takes a biomaterial used to naturally reconstruct tissues. A portion of the small intestine is taken from the animal’s body and used to rejuvenate a degenerating or injured tissue. In doing so, the intestinal cells will reprogram themselves to match that of the new tissue surface, and the cells reform just as the body would be in a natural state before they became debilitated. “The procedure hasn’t reached vet offices just yet,” says Aulbach, “But it has accomplished rehabilitation of joint cartilages, tendons and other tissues, such as a bladder reconstruction. I know it is being done at the University of Michigan and Pittsburgh.”
From practices of modern stem cell treatments, to artificial bone reconstructions, today’s cutting edge medical potentials are having tremendous success. As researchers continue to challenge science with unordinary medical practices, pets continue to benefit, and, in turn, live longer, healthier lives.
Sources: Dr. Adam Aulbach, Dr. Derek Fox, Affiliated Veterinary Specialists, National Academies, National Institutes of Health, Vet Stem