By Dr. Jacob Adserballe, BA DVM
Fat Derived Stem Cell Therapy in Pets Compared to other Treatment Options
Fat derived stem cells are different from bone marrow or umbilical cord stem cells, which have been implicated in both complications and ethical issues. On the other hand fat derived stem cell therapy in pets is quickly becoming a preferred treatment option to improve quality of life for an increasing number of ailments. Notably, these regenerative modalities are becoming backed by clinical testing and sound university research1. Pets of all ages can greatly benefit from this treatment, boasting safety and efficacy with no negative side effects. Stem cell treatments are not cheap, but maybe less expensive than you think. This article will also compare a number of treatment options for common diseases in pets and explain where stem cell therapy fits in, and how these treatments compare from a cost standpoint.
Review of common treatment modalities:
Osteoarthritis (a painful inflammatory reaction triggered by wear and tear on cartilage and bone tissues) hits both pets and people sooner or later and often worse in individuals (pets included) who are overweight. Osteoarthritis is a vicious cycle that worsens the longer it is left untreated. Many treatment modalities exist, including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine, therapeutic cold laser, etc. Additionally, special food supplements and specialty pet foods, intra articular injections including steroid injections, and stem cell therapy also represent patient treatment options. Although stem cell therapy is the most expensive in the line-up for cost per treatment, it lasts longer and with fewer side effects (no side effects) and it actually facilitates the rebuilding of what is broken. Where some treatments seek to mask symptoms with anti-inflammatory properties, stem cell therapy addresses the principal underlying causes of inflammation, lack of physical function, and pain.
One of the best stem cell treatments currently available on the Canadian market (MediVet Biologics) may cost from $1,400 to $1,900 up front, however they will likely produce 3 – 5 treatment dosages, with each dosage lasting from 1 to 4 years, and there are no side effects that have been documented from adult stem cell applications. Because the stem cells are harvested from the patient’s own body fat, they do not cause any reactions to the patient. This is significant because most other treatments come with a long list of potential side effects which get worse and more common the older the patient is. Further, the efficacy (the success of the treatment) is not only long lasting (1 – 4 years), but in most cases more profound than other treatment modalities, if and when the treatment is successful, which it most often is. However, there can be underlying undetected disease such as cancer which the stem cell therapy will not negate that can cause demise of the patient despite stem cell treatment.
The extra dosages produced can be frozen at a laboratory and kept indefinitely until needed. Methods used in cryo-storage yield a very high number of viable, living stem cells available for future re-applications in dogs, cats and horses. If a pet owner is concerned about their pet’s predisposition to certain hereditary ailments later in life, they can proactively bank a young animal’s stem cells in the first 3 years. In the example of a German shepherd, it is common for this breed to experience hereditary troubles with hip dysplasia. As trauma and wear on joints cause cartilage and other connective tissues to relax, osteoarthritis can set in, as hip dysplasia progressively worsens. Joint re-modeling can yield calcified buildups in the joint socket, causing notable pain in animals. Younger German shepherds experiencing osteoarthritis can struggle even in their younger years, so pet owners naturally want to seek out superior treatments to pain medications. In these cases, stem cell therapy seeks to provide not only a potent anti-inflammatory effect, but also stem cells for rebuilding the damaged tissues, in order to increase mobility, and significantly reduce lameness and pain. It should be noted that in some patient cases, some vets have opted for stem cell therapy instead of a total hip replacement.
However, not all stem cell therapies are the same and the pet owner should understand the differences. Having researched a number of different stem cell products I find the MediVet Biologics fat derived autologous stem cell therapy the most compelling for three main reasons: 1. The fat derived stem cells are activated in the lab and mixed with a patients own activated platelet rich plasma, drawn from whole blood. This combination has proven to produce the highest stem cell yields and more growth factors, therefore yielding the highest reparative potential. 2. The laboratory quality control work is exceptional in MediVet’s laboratory, and all samples are verified for purity and screened for contaminants through rigorous laboratory testing. 3. MediVet Biologics makes their products available through local trusted veterinarians who can harvest the needed fat sample and blood sample and administer the stem cell and platelet rich plasma products where needed.
Applications for fat derived stem cells:
Stem Cell therapy is showing amazing results in both humans and animals. In human medicine it is widely used for everything from treating multiple sclerosis to osteoarthritis to skin diseases. Stem Cell therapy was initially targeted to treat osteoarthritis in pets and showed amazing results. Other ailments such as skin diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, pancreatitis, kidney disease, diabetes and various ligament diseases have also shown to be treatable with adult stem cells. This makes sense as the fat derived stem cells (aka mesenchymal cells) have divided about 7 to 8 times before becoming fat stem cells. These cells are destined to further divide when needed to make new cells such as bone, muscle, tendons, ligaments, vessels, fat and skin cells.
An example of how it works:
The ideal way to use the fat derived stem cell technology for treatment in your pet is as follows: 1. When your pet is being sterilized, usually around 6 month to a year of age, a small fat sample is harvested at the same time. Young pets’ fat possesses a higher concentration of potent fat stem cells, making this age an ideal time for cell extraction and storage. 2. The fat sample and a blood sample undergoes the above described laboratory process, 3 to 5 samples are produced, and stored at minus 80 C in the laboratory’s cryo freezer until needed. 3. When the patient develops a tissue disease (bone, muscle, fat, skin, tendon etc.) a stem cell sample can be retrieved from the lab’s freezer (minus 180 degrees Celsius) and sent to the pet’s veterinarian who can administer the stem cell dosage safely. As previously discussed, the viable, living cell count found in frozen samples demonstrates the efficacy of the cryo-storage process for future treatment.
Since the first stem cell therapy treatments in pets began in 2006-07, tens of thousands of pets in North America have been treated successfully, realizing the tangible benefits of the procedure. The reduction of pain and increase in mobility are best showcased in before & after videos documenting a pet’s journey through crippling and chronic ailments such as osteoarthritis. While these procedures do not claim to turn a geriatric patient into a puppy again, the positive effects are a significant, undeniable boost to a pet’s quality of life. Stem cell therapy research will continue to forge ahead exploring “compassionate use” cases such as degenerative myelopathy, skin disease, end-stage renal disease, and inflammatory bowel disease. Exciting results from continued university level research will undoubtedly augment the range of options veterinarians have at their disposal. Finally, more and more pet owners and veterinarians are realizing how complimentary stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies are to accelerating the healing of fractures, surgery, topical wound healing, and soft tissue injuries, ultimately improving quality of life.
More stem cell information and data must to be gathered and researchers need pet owner’s help. If you are a pet owner and would like to consider using a stem cell treatment modality for your pet now or in the future, you may be able to enroll your pet in a large scale study that MediVet Biologics Canada is currently doing. You can contact the MediVet company via firstname.lastname@example.org. They will also help you find a veterinarian in your area that can offer fat derived Stem Cell treatment.
*1. Please see the following research studies:
Autologous adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction cells application in patients with osteoarthritis. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25706817
Mesenchymal stem cells as trophic mediators – Journal of Cellular Biochemistry
Controlled, blinded force platform analysis of the effect of intraarticular injection of autologous adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells associated to PRGF-Endoret in osteoarthritic dogs
Homing and efficacy of intra-articular injection of autologous mesenchymal stem cells in experimental chondral defects in dogs
Effect of adipose-derived mesenchymal stem and regenerative cells on lameness in dogs with chronic osteoarthritis of the coxofemoral joints: a randomized, double-blinded, multicenter, controlled trial. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18183546