Dog treated with stem cells

12:47 AM CDT on Thursday, April 28, 2011
By Bj Lewis / Staff Writer

The owners of a German shepherd are hoping a relatively new procedure will cure some of the age-related ailments suffered by their pet, Keena, 6.

Using adult stem cells from her own body, veterinary technicians at Aubrey’s County View Animal Hospital and officials from MediVet America are attempting to cure Keena’s hip dysplasia.

“It’s an exciting new breakthrough in the vet profession. They’ve been using it in large animals for a long time. Now we’re using it in some of our companion animals,” said veterinarian Ann Sammons.

Adult animal stem cell technology uses the body’s regenerative healing power to cure the animal of osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia and tendon, ligament and cartilage injuries. In the process, fat tissue is removed from the animal, stem cells are separated and activated and then injected into the ailing area.

DRC/Barron Ludlum

DRC/Barron Ludlum

Kendra Hurrell of MediVet America extracts stem cells from fatty tissue taken from a dog at the Country View Animal Hospital in Aubrey on Tuesday. The cells were later injected back into the dog. Two German shepherds were treated Tuesday — Keena, who suffers from hip dysplasia, and Boy, who has spine and hip problems.

Ali Weaver said Sammons proposed the idea to her and her husband after two other dogs were slated to have the procedure.

“Keena is definitely one of the family. We thought about it off and on,” Weaver said. “It was less expensive than we imagined it to be.

“It was worth a chance. She is a good dog, and we know her and we love her. We are really hoping it helps.”

Keena’s hips are thickened, and there is no cartilage cushioning the joints.

“This dog is walking bone on bone. It’s very, very painful. You can literally hear her joints moving,” Sammons said.

Sammons harvested about 15 grams of Keena’s fat to get stem cells. Keena, who is 6 years old, is a lean dog, which made locating fat difficult.

Once the fat was removed, it was put in the hands of Kendra Hurrell, a stem cell technician with MediVet America. Hurrell minced the bits of Keena’s fat and mixed it with solutions to break it down to be able to obtain the stem cells. The process takes about three hours, resulting in a 2-inch tube of stem cells. The dormant stem cells are mixed with platelet-rich plasma (PRP) that was removed from Keena’s blood, activated by LED lighting and injected into her problem areas.

“PRP is the body’s natural anti-inflammatory [and] will reduce the inflammation immediately,” Hurrell said. “After three weeks, you will see bone regrowing, tissue regrowing, and that’s from the stem cells.”

Hurrell said she has never seen the procedure fail.

“The owners, they notice right away, and that is the best part,” she said.

A previous generation of stem cell technology, developed in 2002, required vets to ship samples off to a laboratory for the stem cell separation and would require the animal to be brought back in for another procedure, said Lynn Marcum, a distributor with MediVet America.

The new method is done in-house, saving time and money. It costs about $1,800 for dogs and $2,400 for horses — less than half the cost of the old procedure.

MediVet has been conducting the procedure around the world, including in Australia and Hong Kong. Officials have been performing the treatment in the U.S. for about a year.

Marcum said 8,000 papers were written on the procedure last year.

“It is the buzz of the vet world,” she said.

Sammons was optimistic when looking ahead at follow-up appointments for Keena and the two other animals that underwent the procedure Tuesday.

“I don’t want to give a false sense of security, like these patients will be young, healthy puppies and kittens again,” she said. “Our goal is pain-free, happy pets that don’t have to live the rest of their lives on medication.”