Stem Cells Not Likely to Help Arthritic Joints – 7/22/11


Incorrect orientation of horse and cart


Juan Ponce de Leon (who, in case you hadn't heard, did NOT find the Fountain of Youth)

The “newest” field in equine medicine is so-called “Regenerative” Medicine.  (Honestly, this is an extension of ideas that have been around in North America since, oh, the days of Ponce de Leon, although not necessarily as fanciful.)

Anyway, this information, just in from the North American Regenerative Medicine Meeting, held in Lexington, KY, on June 2-4, 2011.  Here’s an abstract from research presented by Dr. Alan Nixon of Cornell University (who was a resident in surgery at Colorado State University when I was a senior veterinary student).

“Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSC) do not home to cartilage injury in normal or osteoarthritic joints.  This suggests that intra-articular (IA) injections of stem cells would not a useful technique for cartilage re-surfacing. However, the large presence of labeled MSC within the synovial tissues suggests that MSC may engraft to synovial tissue. If MSC by intra-articular injection are effective in reducing joint disease, it may be through modulation of synovial fluid constitutes, inflammation or cytokine profile.”


Incorrect orientation of horse and cart

Bottom line?  Don’t expect stem cell injections to help restore the surface of your horse’s osteoarthritic joints.   Why anyone would expect them to help is an open question – cartilage cells don’t have any blood supply, which is part of the reason that they can’t effectively repair themselves.  While you may be swayed by the “promise” of new therapies, trying them before there is good evidence for effectiveness is clearly putting the cart before the horse.

For more information from Dr. Ramey about stem cells, CLICK HERE.

For more information from Dr. Ramey about osteoarthritis, CLICK HERE.


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