October 16, 2019

Dr. Susan Head


Stem Cell Therapy

Treating inflammatory conditions through injection therapy

The Process

We are certified by VetStem Biopharma for stem cell therapy.  

Stem cell therapy involves obtaining stem cells from the patient and then returning them either to a specific location or IV throughout the entire body. Because the best place to obtain stem cells is from the falciform fat inside the abdomen, the collection includes a surgery similar to a spay to harvest the fat.  General anesthesia and pain control are used for the fat collection. The specimen is sent overnight to the stem cell laboratory, where the stem cells are isolated from the fat. Assuming there are enough stem cells, the lab concentrates them and sends back an appropriate dose and amount for administration for the condition being treated. If there are not enough stem cells in the amount of fat collected, the laboratory cultures the cells collected to reproduce enough to use for therapy. If culture is not needed, the cells are sent back to our clinic for administration ~48 hrs after we collected them. If culture is required, it adds an additional three weeks.  

Stem cell therapy has been used traditionally in veterinary medicine for injection directly into painful joints (such as from trauma or for severe arthritis or disease in 1 or 2 joints), primarily in dogs and horses. Currently it is being used experimentally (especially in cats) for various inflammatory conditions such as IBD, generalized arthritis, gingivostomatitis, asthma, chronic kidney disease, etc.  

The best candidates have no other significant systemic diseases such as heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease (unless using it to treat that specifically), and should not have any known cancer or systemic infection.

The stem cell treatment process.

Treatment involves injection directly into a joint (or joints) under sedation OR intravenous injection (IV, which is used for everything but specific joint disease). If IV treatment is performed, the patient stays with us for a few hours so we can pre-treat with antihistamines then set an IV and slowly administer the stem cells then monitor for any adverse reactions. Generally treatment is performed 48 hours after collection (or ~3 weeks later if culture is required). The lab would tell us the day they receive the specimens if there are enough cells or if culture will be required. So we would generally schedule sample collection for a Monday or Tuesday and plan on returning the stem cells 2 days later. That may have to be postponed 3 weeks if culturing is required.

Depending on what is being treated and the severity, some conditions require a single treatment, and others require 2-3 treatments (or additional treatments for more severe or poorly responsive cases).  

Side effects from the stem cells are rare, since the stem cells came from the same patient. Sedation and general anesthesia and surgery always have inherent risks, but they are uncommon at our facility. Stem cell therapy is compatible with most other treatments that may be used concurrently such as medications, supplements, and laser therapy.  

The laboratory requires various forms to be filled out by both the veterinarian and the owner, and some forms are to be submitted after treatment at intervals with feedback on efficacy.

It may take a few months to see full response to therapy, and response can be variable. It is generally very good for intra-articular (into the joint) injections. For the systemic diseases, it can be more variable, as this treatment modality is still in early stages.

Stem Cell Therapy

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