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Treating Lameness: Improved Stem Cell Therapy Now Available

Mid-Rivers is now treating equine lameness with an improved stem cell therapy protocol. As a cutting edge therapy, treating horses with stem cells is a continually evolving and improving science. The newly adopted methodology maximizes regenerative properties and anti-inflammatory agents. As some may be aware, we have harvested fat for isolation of stem cells for several years, but the old method left a scar near the tail-head, which was a deterrent in some cases. The new method for acquisition of fat is through the use of liposuction. The harvested fat is then processed, the fat enzymatically digested and removed along with other cellular “debris,” and through rinsing and concentration we are able to achieve a highly concentrated sample of stem cells. These advancements increase dosage potency, allow for same day collection, culturing, and treatment. This reduces the cost over the previous method of harvesting fat, overnight shipping to a processing lab and then a second trip to the clinic for treatment.

Increased Stem Cell Quantity and Potency
Research has shown that adipose (fatty tissue) provides us with one of the body’s richest sources of stem cells. When isolating and culturing the adipose stem cells from fatty tissue, a single sample of the stem cell yield can be as much as 5%. Previous harvesting and culturing methods resulted in samples containing 2%. This gives twice the healing agents in a single dose.


It is important that stem cells are alive when administered. Why is this notable? Because when stem cells are outside of the body they lose viability. Methods of stem cell therapy, which require the sample to be shipped for processing, involve a percentage of those important stem cells that die. Within 24 hours, viability can drop by as much as 40%. Shipping samples out for processing is no longer required for treatments at Mid-Rivers Equine. We now have the ability to spin, filter and digest the fat and acquire very concentrated samples in our lab the same day. The advantage is a higher percentage of live stem cells being delivered to the patient.

The process by which the sample is collected and processed can also impact dosage potency. Mid-Rivers uses a scientifically tested protocol to ensure the maximum medical benefits with the least amount of risk. Mid-Rivers adheres to a clearly defined and validated collection and sample preparation process. This process has been proven by Stemlogix to produce clean samples with a high level of potency, not just high cell counts.

A study by Stemlogix shows that adipose stem cells derived with this process have a greater ability to attach themselves to damaged tissue. Their clinical study showed an attachment rate of five million stem cells vs. the best previous method of three hundred thousand attached stem cells. When more stem cells attach, we increase the potential for better, stronger healing, with the goal of repairing the damaged tissue to its original state or as close to the original state as possible. The higher the dose of stem cells, the lower the re-injury rate post-recovery.

Same Day Treatment
Same day treatment ensures the horses receive a more potent dosage faster. By treating the injuries sooner, we help reduce the risk of further injury and put them on a path to quicker healing. Our clients will appreciate too, that they now only need to make one trip to the clinic for an initial treatment instead of the two with the previous method: one for collection and one for treatment. This not only saves our clients time but also the cost of multiple visits.

Additional Cost Savings
Previously we were required to ship samples to a third party lab for processing. This was both expensive and time consuming, not only for the hospital but also for our clients. Today we no longer require the services of a third party lab. The spinning, filtering and culturing are done in our lab by trained lab techs. Our cost for collecting and processing dosages has dropped significantly and we are happy to be able to pass that savings on to our clients.

Stem Cell Collection Process in Horses
The horse will be given a sedative and remain standing while fatty tissue is removed from just above the tail. This is done with a syringe that aspirates (sucks out) the fatty tissue. It is similar to a liposuction procedure in humans but without the vacuum assist. It is a minimally evasive procedure. The incision is closed with a single stitch and the procedure doesn’t leave a scar.

Once extracted, the material is spun in a centrifuge with a washing agent. The spinning, separating and filtering process is repeated several times and ultimately the stem cells are cleanly separated from the fatty tissue. After we have a clean stem cell sample it is ready to be cultured. When culturing is complete, the stem cell dosage is ready for injection.

More About Adipose Stem Cells
Stem cells from adipose (fatty) tissue are malleable. They can mature into many types of tissue: bone, cartilage, muscle, marrow, tendons/ligaments, and connective tissue. This malleability allows us to treat a variety of medical conditions. Horses suffering from tendon or ligament injuries and degenerative joint disease are generally good candidates. One study indicated it might also be beneficial in treating laminitis.

Take Away Message
If you have a horse that is suffering from chronic lameness issues or ligament and tendon tears stem cell therapy may be an option for you. With the new process, your chances for better healing increase, it takes less time, and costs have gone down. If you have any questions about this therapy or would like to discuss the possibilities with one of the veterinarians please give us a call at 636.3325373 and one of our doctors will be happy to speak with you.

January 15, 2013

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