While stem cell research has provided scientists throughout the world with clues on the treatment of diseases in humans for the last 50 years, more recent information has contributed to revolutionary developments in the treatment of illnesses in animals. Until recently, scientists worked exclusively with two kinds of stem cells from animals and humans: embryonic stem cells and non-embryonic “somatic” or “adult” stem cells.
According to Dr. Lewis Gelfand, a Long Beach veterinarian who treats pets with stem cell regenerative treatments, these treatments have only just begun to take hold in the United States. They are used abundantly throughout other parts of the world to treat illnesses in family pets.
“It started with horses to treat bowed tendons,” explained Gelfand. “The response was very effective and proceeded to be used clinically for dogs, more specifically to treat osteoarthritis. There are tremendous amounts of field studies being conducted for other problems for both dogs and people—80 percent of the pets treated have an improved quality of life, according to their owners and their vets.”
Gelfand additionally points out that stem cell treatments for dogs have both a palliative and regenerative effect because it helps form fibro and hyaline cartilage, the normal surface cartilage. While it “doesn’t make an abnormal joint normal,” it regenerates the surface so the dog “feels like it’s normal” again. The procedure buys quality time and extends the dog’s life by three to four years. The two-day procedure consists of harvesting the stem cells and implantation of the cells; the shots are injected directly into the joints needing repair. The cost of this procedure, according to Gelfand, is between $2,700 and $3,500, depending on the number of injections required.
“There have been big breakthroughs over the last five years—what we are doing is the tip of the iceberg,” Gelfand said. “We’re looking at trials for diabetes and other diseases.”
Why are stem cells so important in fighting and curing diseases?
• Cells are capable of renewing themselves through cell division, even after long periods of inactivity.
• Under experimental or physiologic conditions, they can be induced to become tissue or organ-specific cells, repairing and replacing worn out or damaged tissues.
• Offers new potential for treating diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, spinal cord injuries, and heart disease.
• Helps us understand inherited diseases by enabling the study of human cells with the exact genetic defects that cause the disease.
• Allows the discovery of safer and more effective drugs.
For information about stem cell treatments, please visit the following Web sites:
www.allcreatureshospital.vetsuite.com (Dr. Gelfand)
http://stemcells.nih.gov (Medline Plus)
http://www.isscr.org/public (International Society for Stem Cell Research)
Note: Below are two additional excellent Web sites, omitted last week:
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