Stem cell ther­apy

Los Angeles Times - - THE PETS ISSUE -

Stem cell ther­apy is one facet of vet­eri­nary medicine that has been pi­o­neered ahead of hu­man medicine. Dr. Ni­cole Buote, chief of surgery at VCA West Los An­ge­les An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal, uses stem cells har­vested from fat to help pets that suf­fer from arthri­tis, torn ten­dons and de­gen­er­a­tive spinal prob­lems. She har­vests pa­tients’ belly fat la­paro­scop­i­cally from a 2 cen­time­ter in­ci­sion, then sends the tis­sue off to VetStem, a com­pany in San Diego, where it is pro­cessed with en­zymes that sep­a­rate fat cells from stem cells. VetStem banks some of the stem cells and sends the rest back to Buote. She can ei­ther in­ject the stem cells into a pa­tient’s joint or ad­min­is­ter them through an IV, where they travel through the blood­stream and home in on ar­eas of in­flam­ma­tion. They work both me­chan­i­cally and chem­i­cally, by re­build­ing new tis­sue in dam­aged ar­eas as well as shut­ting down chem­i­cal pro­cesses that cause dam­age. Though stem cell ther­apy in hu­mans has re­cently come un­der the scru­tiny of the FDA, sev­eral stud­ies have shown that stem cells ex­tracted from fat tis­sue are ef­fec­tive in re­liev­ing arthri­tis and torn ten­dons in dogs and horses.

“This is not magic — it’s not go­ing to make a 10-year-old dog like a 1-year-old dog. But stem cells can stop in­flam­ma­tion in joints and can start to heal some of the tis­sues,” Buote says. The ini­tial har­vest­ing and treat­ment cost is $2,500, with sub­se­quent in­jec­tions ev­ery three to six months, at about $200 per treat­ment. (The stem cell bank­ing fee is free the first year, then $150 an­nu­ally.)

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