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Owners able to "bank" umbilical stem cells from foals

Horse owners can now collect umbilical cord tissue immediately after a foal is born and save it as a future source of therapeutic stem cells through a California-based university laboratory.

The Regenerative Medicine Laboratory at the University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine can provide kits that enable the foal's owner or veterinarian to easily collect the umbilical cord tissue and send it to the lab, where it will be minimally processed.

One dose of stem cells will be sent back to the horse owner's veterinarian, and another sample will be frozen and stored for as long as four years.

If the horse should later need stem-cell therapy to treat an injury or the effects of disease, the tissue sample can be retrieved from the frozen archive and treated to encourage growth of the stem cells.

Within just two weeks, sufficient cells would be available for a treatment. The method is modelled after procedures currently used in human medicine to collect and bank babies' cord blood for potential use in cell-based therapies.

"The advantage is that, unlike collecting stem cells derived from bone marrow or fat, umbilical cord banking doesn't require the horse to undergo a traumatic or invasive procedure," said veterinarian Sean Owens, medical director of the laboratory.

He also noted that each cord tissue sample could be expanded as needed, such as at the beginning of rigorous training, so that cell doses could be ready for injection within a few days of an injury.

The cost for the collection kit and four years of storage is $US1625.
March 11, 2011

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