Regenerative Medicine Has Gone to the Dogs

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Art Gentile/Staff Photographer Dr Przemyslaw Romiszewski, veterinarian at the Animal Medical Center in Buckingham along with vet technicians, Ellen O’Toole and Amy Turner, shave Max, an 11-yr-old Rottweiler, Lab mix before performing Bucks County’s first stem cell implant on.

The use of the science in animals is relatively new, but promising.

For most of his life, Max has lived with constant pain.

The 11-year-old Rottweiler-Labrador mix was hit by a car before his first birthday. A surgeon repaired his broken right hind leg using a pin that was too long.

As a result of the injury and surgery, Max developed osteoarthritis in his ankle and knee, which requires daily doses of anti-inflammatory drugs. Still, his vet and owners believe, that Max experiences significant discomfort from his old injury.

But soon he could be feeling like a new puppy again.

On Tuesday, Max underwent the first adult animal stem cell transplant performed in a Bucks County veterinarian’s office. The doctor removed fat tissue from Max, then extracted and activated millions of dormant stem cells, a process that takes four hours, before injecting them into the injury site.

If all goes as expected, Max should be feeling better today and his leg will continue improving during the upcoming weeks, said Dr. Przemyslaw Romiszewski, who performed the surgery at the Animal Medical Center in Buckingham.

Romiszewski called the stem cell transplant revolutionary.

“It’s a fantastic procedure,” he said. “The results, which I have seen with this procedure, are phenomenal.”

Adult stem cell replacement has been used in humans for more than 40 years, mainly through bone marrow transplantations as a treatment for blood cancers and blood disorders.

Stem cells are the building blocks for other cells, organs and tissue. The cells are undifferentiated, meaning they are “blank” with no specific function. Under proper conditions, stem cells begin to develop into specialized tissues and organs.

In humans, adult stem cells from liposuctioned adipose (fat) tissue are useful for reconstructive surgery, according to the medical community.

An ongoing approved clinical trial in Europe involves breast cancer patients using adipose-derived adult stem cells for breast reconstruction and interim results have been promising in growing new breast tissue.

Like with its human counterpart, adult animal stem cell technology uses the body’s regenerative healing process to grow new tissue, cartilage and bone.

The procedure is used on dogs, cats and horses with osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia and tendon and cartilage and fracture injuries and other degenerative diseases.

Adult animal stem cell technology was developed in 2002, but it required veterinarians to ship tissue samples to a West Coast laboratory to extract the stem cells, and wait for the cells to be returned for injection, increasing the risk of degeneration, said Jeb Johnson, a distributor with the Kentucky-based MediVet-America.

The new technology pioneered by MediVet is a one-day procedure done entirely in the veterinary clinic, and at $1,800 for dogs ($2,400 for horses), it’s half the cost of the older procedure, Johnson said.

In the U.S., the company has supplied more than 2,000 stem cell kits like the one used on Max to veterinarians who report significant improvement in animals that previously were unable to move without pain, Johnson said.

“It’s almost unbelievable. These cases are described continuously,” Romiszewski said. “With all my sports injuries, I am waiting for this to be ready in humans.”

For now, Max’s parents, Susan and Bob Seiden, are relieved it’s available for him.

“He’s still a healthy, perky dog,” said Susan Seiden of Furlong.

She said she read a lot about the stem cell procedure and its use in dogs and believes it has great potential.

“I’m really hopeful that this is going to keep the quality of his life good for a long, long time.”

Jo Ciavaglia can be reached at 215-949-4181 or jciavaglia@phillyBurbs.com

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