First Published: 20 October 2016
Regenerative Medicine for the Future of Your PetOne of the most exciting advances in medicine today is the use of stem cells to regenerate and repair damaged tissues. For decades, doctors have used tissue grafts and transplants to heal and repair damage to our bodies. Stem cell therapy is the next generation of healing.
The possibility and promise of using stem cells for therapy has been researched for over 35 years but only recently has stem cell therapy become available and practical for clinical use. The main breakthrough has to do with the advent of using stem cells derived from fatty tissues instead of embryonic or bone marrow stem cells.
At Safari Veterinary Centers, we practice this regenerative medicine which helps your pet’s body replace damaged tissue with new tissue by using stem cells harvested from his or her body fat. This regenerative medicine is the natural, safe and effective way of the future of medicine. Let’s explore the basics of Stem Cell Therapy.
What Exactly is a Stem Cell?Stem cells are the primary mechanism for natural tissue repair everywhere in the body.
Let’s look at the human heart as an example. An 80-year-old human heart has naturally replaced or regenerated every cell four times. This regeneration is due to the action of stem cells, but goes against the long-held tenet that the heart has stopped growing and developing once adulthood is reached. Over the past 10 years we have learned that we can apply stem cells to the damaged heart to regenerate new muscle cells and blood vessels to repair damage caused by acute or chronic disease. This astounding revelation affects the therapy for not only the heart but for every tissue of the body and every disease of dogs, cats, humans, and every animal in the kingdom.
The three most common causes of death in dogs are heart failure, kidney failure, and cancer. Stem cells have demonstrated therapeutic success in both heart and kidney failure. Many other diseases from diabetes, to dry eye and from arthritis to arteriosclerosis can be treated with stem cells.
It is important to understand the distinctions between the different types of stem cells and their application today.
Embryonic Stem CellsEmbryonic stem cells were first isolated in 1981 from mice embryos and were found to have the capacity to transform into any cell of the body. These remarkable cells, however, are derived from 5-day old embryos, creating an ethical dilemma for their clinical use. In addition, these cells are genetically destined to build a fetus and in this effort, without proper direction and control they tend to create tumors consisting of unorganized tissues called teratomas. Because of these two issues, embryonic stem cells are used only for basic research.
Pluripotent Stem CellsInduced pluripotent stem cells (IPSC’s) are cells that have been induced through genetic manipulation to behave identically to embryonic stem cells. Because these cells are not derived from embryos, the ethical issues are eliminated. Nevertheless, these cells are just as difficult to control as embryonic stem cells, forming tumors when not in the strictest of laboratory conditions. These cells are not used in the clinical setting for these reasons.
Bone Marrow Derived Stem CellsClinically, most stem cell therapy today in humans is focused on bone marrow derived stem cells. These cells are collected from a painful bone marrow aspirate yielding very few stem cells. The stem cells are then cultured and the culture is then expanded to yield enough cells for therapy. This process takes at least six weeks’ time as well as a well-equipped laboratory and skilled laboratory personnel. These are not usually available to most veterinarians.
Adipose Derived Stem CellsAdipose derived stem cells on the other hand, are immediately available without culture. Adipose derived cells are found in body fat in large numbers and are relatively easy to process. Processing takes only a couple of hours, so clients’ pets can be treated without waiting. These cells are from the pet’s own body so there is no risk of adverse reaction or rejection. Processing the cells in-house means a rapid turnaround time which results in a high percentage of viable cells, giving better cure rates.
How do Stem Cells Work?Stem cells are “mother” cells giving rise to “second generation” cells which differ from the parent. These differences are dictated by the needs of the body for repair. “Mother” stem cells placed into an arthritic joint, for example, will be bathed in the joint fluid that contains chemicals released from the diseased cartilage cells. These chemicals help direct the development of the second generation cells into new cartilage cells. These new cells replace the missing or damaged cells with new cartilage. This is regeneration not healing. Regeneration is the growth of new tissue, whereas healing results in the formation of scar tissue or fibrous replacement tissue that is not as functional as the original tissue. Stem cells regenerate the original cartilage tissue just as it was when the animal was an infant.
This is our very basic introduction to stem cell therapy as practiced at Safari Veterinary Care Centers in League City, TX.