In 2015 Dr. Garner embarked on his own Safari (or journey) into the land of stem cell therapy. Once he was convinced that stem cells were a viable alternative therapy for many previously incurable diseases, he wanted to know how to capture this technology for his Safari patients.
Stem cells come in several varieties, some with ethical considerations, and because Dr. Garner has “Respect all Life” as one of his guiding principles, embryonic stem cell therapy is not an option at Safari. Instead, Adult Stem Cells are used. Adult Stem Cells, also called Mesenchymal Stem Cells, are harvested from body fat and can be used for many regenerative therapies.
Scout's Journey to Wellness
Dr. Garner is focused on how to best use stem cells for pets and, in this quest, he discovered several hurdles that must be overcome before it made sense to offer stem cell therapy to his clients.
One – Collecting stem cells for a one-time administration is common, but what was the likelihood of having to give multiple doses of cells over a period of time to patients? This required either storage of the cells or culture and expansion of the number of cells or both so that the pet could have access to the full advantage of the therapy.
Two – Stem cells look just like other normal cells of the body. Distinguishing these cells, counting these cells and telling if these cells are viable and healthy takes special equipment, special stains and special microscopes. Just taking fat and spinning it down with digesting enzymes was not good enough for Dr. Garner, he wanted to know what he was putting into these pets, what was the viability? What was the type of cell? How many cells? How many live cells? How could you tell these were stem cells?
Three – Long term storage requires liquid nitrogen, but you cannot just dip stem cells into liquid nitrogen to freeze them. If you do this, they die! You must take stem cells (unlike other tissues) down in temperature one degree per minute until you get close to 32 degrees, then you speed up the freezing (because ice crystals start to form at 32 degrees) to 10 degrees per minute until you get to minus 30 degrees, then you slow down the freezing to one degree per minute. So how do you control the rate of freezing? The answer is with a computerized controlled rate liquid nitrogen freezer. Now how much do you think that costs? Well, Dr. Garner knows because he bought one to freeze his patients stem cells for storage. Freezing is not that easy, as there are chemicals that must be mixed with the stem cells to prevent ice crystals and cell death during the storage process, and these chemicals if left with the stem cells at room temperature are fatal to the cells as well.
Four – Culturing stem cells allows you to better characterize the cells as to type and function. Culturing also allows you to increase the number of cells so that therapy can be more effective. But, culturing is done outside the body, and as such it changes the stem cells in ways that make them less robust at healing. Certain factors can stimulate stem cells to become more active after culturing, such as platelet factors from the patient receiving the cells. Culturing is difficult, contamination is common and the media that it takes to grow stem cells is very expensive.
To overcome these obstacles Dr. Garner enrolled in stem cell school. While there are no veterinary stem cell classes, there are classes for humans which do stem cell research. Dr. Garner went to these classes in California and Tennessee and has come to understand the essential elements of developing a fully functional stem cell laboratory. In this effort, Dr. Garner developed a relationship with a human stem cell research laboratory in Houston; InGeneron. InGeneron (http://ingeneron.com) conducts stem cells research for various elements of the Houston-area Medical Center. They have trained Dr. Garner and his staff of cellular engineers and have been to our stem cell laboratory at Safari in League City to help us set up our systems and protocols. InGeneron also provides us with some of our reagents for cell processing.
To further advance their knowledge of Canine Rehabilitation, Dr. Garner and his wife Dr. Susan Mooney/Garner have attended the Canine Rehabilitation Certificate Program at the University of Tennessee. CCRP Program is a Certificate Program in Canine Physical Rehabilitation.
The University of Tennessee Certificate Program in Canine Physical Rehabilitation is the only program in veterinary rehabilitation to win the distinguished Outstanding Non-Credit Program Award by the Association for Continuing Higher Education.
When Dr. Garner does something, he does it right. He learns the basics, he employs the experts and he invests both time and money into making it up to the standard that our clients demand.
By using these exceptional techniques, Dr. Garner has had exceptional success. He has focused on making paralyzed dogs walk. Starting with Scout, who had no perception of pain or movement in his rear legs for the two weeks prior to stem cell therapy. Now Scout walks like a normal dog!
Carli is another case, however, Carlie was paralyzed for over two years! We continue to work with many rescue organizations to provide discounted stem cell therapy. All Texas Dachshund Rescue has been a great partner in bringing this cutting-edge therapy to many dachshunds paralyzed from IVDD.