15 April, 2009

Stem Cell Therapy Saves Racehorses

I caught something interesting on Beyond Tomorrow: there are now stem cell treatments for racehorses that heal damaged tendons. What's even better is that the show got it right:

Many race horses suffer injuries to their legs, of which tendon injuries, knee and elbow injuries are the most common. The healing process can be painful and often places a horse on the sideline for months at a time. Although these injuries do heal, ligaments and tendons tend to lose their strength during healing, and scar tissue is weaker than the original tissue. When it comes to cartilage, the damage is often irreplaceable and the tissue in cartilage takes an extremely long time to heal. Research and tests in regard to stem cell therapy have shown many positive results, and could assist horses in recovering to their full strength.

Stem cell therapy research, as a regenerative medical course of action, has been used by many veterinarians over the years. The research into these methods is not new, but there have been improvements and advances in the studies. Generally, stem cells are harvested from bone marrow. When these stem cells have been used to heal tendons and ligaments, the results have been nothing less than extraordinary. In research done by a company called Vet-Stem, these regenerative methods were tried on approximately three thousand horses that suffered from severe and chronic injuries to their joints, tendons and ligaments. The result was that seventy-six percent of horses with ligament ailments returned to working condition, fifty-six percent with joint injuries also returned to work at full capacity, while twenty-six percent returned to work, but at a lower work level. When testing non-race horses, the result was even more astounding; with eighty-nine percent of the hundred and seventy nine horses treated returning to their previous performance levels.

Perhaps someday, those champagne ankles will be as good as adamantium. At least right now, stem cell therapy is saving horses that would have been retired prematurely or destroyed. And the process is dead simple: a vet takes bone marrow from the horse's sternum. Stem cells are cultured from that, and then injected into the injury site. Two needle sticks, a wee bit o' time, and voila - all fixed up.

Stem cells are already doing marvelous things. Just imagine what will happen if we can move religious fanatics out of the way and really get cracking on life-saving research.

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