Kent Veterinary Center


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Several advanced scientific therapies for previously untreatable joint disease and equine injuries have been introduced into equine veterinary medicine over the last decade.  Veterinarians use PRP and stem cell therapies to manipulate the body’s biological mechanisms to stimulate healing.

There is ongoing research for these therapies and new information is gathered each day. While the promise of cure is very exciting for both veterinary professionals and horse owners, it is important for the owner to understand the science behind each therapy in order to have a reasonable expectation for success.



 STEM CELL THERAPY

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells that have the ability to replicate and differentiate into a diverse range of cell types. These cell types include tendon, ligament, cartilage, muscle and bone. There are two basic types of stem cells, hematopoetic and mesenchymal. We are primarily concerned with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) because they appear to have the best potential for regenerative medicine. These MSC are found in bone marrow, fat, umbilical cord blood and tissue, and many other organs throughout the body. The younger or more immature the stem cell, the more potential they may have.  The younger stem cells have an increased ability to heal and regenerate tissue compared to the adult stem cells.  This is the reason for the recent interest in storing umbilical cord blood in horses. 


In equine practice stem cells are commonly derived from bone marrow obtained from the sternum or the tuber coxae. Once the bone marrow has been obtained it is sent to a lab where it is cultured and expanded into millions of stem cells.  The typical dose ranges from 10 to 25 million stem cells per treatment.  The culture and expansion process takes approximately 3-4 weeks.  The stem cells can then be injected into the affected tendon, ligament or joint.  Recently, we have also been using stem cells to treat chronic laminitis cases with encouraging results. The multiple uses for stem cells have yet to be determined.


The second source of stem cells is fat.  Fat derived stem cells only contain 2-4% stem cells unless they are cultured and expanded.  Therefore adipose derived stromal fraction is the more appropriate term used to describe this therapy. 


Research comparing bone marrow derived to fat derived stem cells indicate that bone marrow derived stem cells are superior to fat derived stem cells.


Platelet Rich Plasma and Stem Cell Therapies offer the possibility of successful treatment of previously life-threatening or career-ending injuries. Consult your veterinarian to determine if one of these treatments may be appropriate for your horse.