Aug 12, 2022

Leo’s Story: VetStem Cell Therapy for Cruciate Ligament Tear

Did you know that cruciate ligament rupture is one of the most common reasons for hind limb lameness, pain, and subsequent knee arthritis in dogs? While there are multiple treatment options available, both surgical and non-surgical, treatment with stem cells may accelerate and improve healing within the joint. Numerous dogs have received VetStem Cell Therapy for cruciate ligament injuries. Generally speaking, stem cells are more effective when the ligament is only partially torn. In many cases, a full tear will still require surgery.

Leo’s Stem Cell Story

Leo is a 92-pound German Shepherd. One day, after jumping out of his owner’s SUV, he yelped and held his right rear leg up. Two veterinarians confirmed that Leo had partially torn his cruciate ligament in his right knee. While dogs of any size can be affected by this injury, large breed dogs tend to be more at risk.

Leo

Initially, Leo’s owners took a conservative approach to manage his condition. Non-surgical treatment usually involves some combination of anti-inflammatory and pain medications, exercise modifications, joint supplements, rehabilitation, and possibly braces/supports. Unfortunately, conservative medical management is not always successful, and after months of leash walks only, Leo’s symptoms worsened.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Cruciate Ligament Tear

After months of research, Leo’s owners elected to try VetStem Cell Therapy as opposed to surgical repair of the injured ligament. Stem cells are regenerative cells that can reduce pain and inflammation, reduce the formation of scar tissue, help to restore range of motion, and stimulate regeneration of tendon, ligament, and joint tissues. Additionally, according to surveys answered by owners and veterinarians, greater than 80% of dogs showed an improved quality of life after receiving VetStem Cell Therapy for orthopedic conditions.

To begin the process, Leo’s veterinarian, Dr. Chris Forstall of SouthShore Animal Hospital, collected fat tissue from his abdomen during a minimally-invasive anesthetic procedure. The cells were aseptically packaged and shipped to the VetStem processing laboratory. Lab technicians processed the fat to isolate and concentrate the stem and regenerative cells contained therein. These cells were packaged into separate stem cell doses, two of which were shipped to Leo’s veterinarian for treatment, while the rest were put into cryopreservation for potential future use.

Approximately 48 hours after the initial fat collection, Leo received one injection of his own stem cells into each knee. You may be wondering why Leo’s veterinarian injected both knees, as opposed to just his injured knee. According to the American College of Veterinary Surgeons, 40-60% of dogs who injure one cruciate ligament will go on to injure the other cruciate ligament in the future. Because of this, many veterinarians choose to treat both knees with stem cells, even when there is only one injured knee. This prophylactic approach may reduce or delay the possibility of injuring the second knee.

Leo Improves after VetStem Cell Therapy

According to his owner, Leo showed improvement just one month after treatment. His owner stated, “Leo is improving every day. We are thrilled that VetStem banked Leo’s stem cells for future use. I’m looking forward to him improving even more. Thank you for offering this cutting-edge therapy!”

Leo’s initial stem cell process yielded several additional doses that are currently cryopreserved. Cryopreservation of stem cells allows them to maintain their functional properties so that they can be used in the future should Leo require them.

If your dog has suffered from a partial cruciate ligament tear, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. Or contact us to find a VetStem provider near you.

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Aug 5, 2022

Veterinary Care for Retired Police Dogs

Recently, an article was published that described a new bill that was signed into law in Florida. Bill 226 established the Care for Retired Police Dogs program to create a $300,000 recurring funds program under the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to provide subsidized veterinary care for retired law enforcement dogs.

Police dogs are often worked hard and can occasionally become injured on the job. According to the article, “The Care for Retired Police Dogs Program will provide a reimbursement of up to $1,500 of the annual veterinary costs associated with caring for a retired police dog. This includes annual wellness checks, vaccinations, parasite prevention treatments, medications, and emergency care for the animals.”

At VetStem, we have a tender spot for police dogs. We have actually provided cell therapy services for a number of police dogs throughout the years. One common injury among working dogs occurs in the semitendinosus muscle, which is part of the hamstring muscle group. Injury to this muscle can result in a buildup of fibrosis, or scar tissue, which causes the muscle to contract and shorten. This contracture leads to lameness and an abnormal gait in the affected dog.

This condition, known as semitendinosus myopathy, can be career-ending for working dogs. Traditional treatments include rest, medication, rehabilitation, and surgery. Unfortunately, none of these methods have been fully successful, and many dogs do not return to their full activity.

That’s where VetStem comes in! We contributed to a study to evaluate the use of stem cells to treat semitendinosus myopathy and the results were incredibly promising. The study included eight working police K-9s that were diagnosed with semitendinosus myopathy. Each dog was treated with VetStem Cell Therapy and all eight dogs returned to active police work. In addition, each dog’s gait returned to normal.

We recognize the importance of the work that these dogs do, and the fact that many of them risk injury and even put their lives on the line. The new bill in Florida is just a small step to show our gratitude for the sacrifices these hard-working dogs make. At VetStem, we are pleased to contribute what we can to help keep police and other working dogs happy and healthy long into their retirement years.

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Jul 29, 2022

VetStem’s Exotic Animal Program

Posted by Bob under Exotic Animals, VetStem

Lately, we’ve shared news about our work with several species of exotic animals. VetStem has worked with a number of exotic animal organizations around the U.S. to provide stem cell therapy to sick and injured animals. You may remember our recent blogs about elephants and aquatic animals.

We’ve also discussed our work with bears, including Francis and Brody. Francis is a sun bear from the San Diego Zoo that received VetStem Cell Therapy for arthritis in several joints. Brody, a juvenile black bear in Florida, received VetStem Cell Therapy in conjunction with surgery for a condition that is similar to hip dysplasia in dogs. In addition to degenerative and congenital diseases, VetStem Cell Therapy has been used to treat traumatic injuries such as a sea turtle who was injured by a propeller as well as viral diseases as discussed in our blog about elephants.

Recently, VetStem Chief Development Officer, Dr. Anne Hale, visited The Preserve in Texas to discuss the use of stem cells in some of their older elephants and giraffes. According to their website, “The Preserve is dedicated to expanding elephant education, knowledge, and conservation. These efforts have brought about numerous professional accolades and recognition. We’re committed to doing our part to help save elephants from extinction.”

Dr. Hale stated, “I was honored to meet The Preserve family and look forward to supporting their efforts to keep these wonderful animals healthy and happy.”

At VetStem, we recognize our duty to these exotic and endangered animals. We take our job very seriously when it comes to the research and development of innovative regenerative medicine treatments for animals and diseases that have minimal treatment options. For those who may be interested in having an exotic animal treated or contributing to the exotic animal cell therapy program, we encourage you to reach out to VetStem personnel.

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Jul 22, 2022

Back to the Basics: What Are Stem Cells?

Much of our blog is dedicated to the various disease processes that can potentially be treated with VetStem Cell Therapy. But it’s been a while since we’ve discussed the basics of stem cells. What are stem cells? What purpose do they serve? We will answer these questions and more in this week’s blog.

What are stem cells?

Stem cells are specialized cells that have the ability to differentiate into over 200 types of known cells in the human body. Some of these cells include tendon, ligament, bone, cartilage, cardiac, nerve, muscle, blood vessels, fat, and liver tissue. Because of this, some have referred to stem cells as “the building blocks of life.”

When we think of stem cells as building blocks, we are most likely thinking of embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cells exist only at the earliest stages of development. They are pluripotent, meaning they can differentiate into any cell type. The function of embryonic stem cells is to form whole organs and organisms.

Alternatively, adult stem cells include multiple types of stem cells that are present in almost all tissues of the adult body. They can be multipotent or unipotent, meaning they can only differentiate into one type of cell. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are multipotent adult stem cells that have demonstrated the ability to differentiate into multiple cell types. When used for VetStem Cell Therapy, adult MSCs are extracted from fat tissue, one of the richest sources of MSCs in the body.

What purpose do stem cells serve?

As mentioned above, embryonic stem cells serve one purpose: to form whole organs and organisms. Adult stem cells on the other hand, are utilized by the body to replenish dying cells and to repair damaged tissues. This discovery is what led to multiple studies to help determine the full therapeutic benefits of adult stem cells.

VetStem Cell Therapy: A Therapeutic Application of Stem Cells

VetStem uses adult MSCs in an effort to repair damaged tissues in animals with various injuries and diseases. But this is not the only mechanism of action that stem cells utilize in the healing process. Stem cells have also been shown to down-regulate inflammation, reduce pain, and modulate the immune system. All of these mechanisms, and more that we’re still learning about, make stem cell therapy a multimodal approach to healing.

If you think your pet may benefit from VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Jul 15, 2022

VetStem Cell Therapy for Immune-Mediated Disease

VetStem Cell Therapy is primarily used for the treatment of orthopedic conditions in dogs and horses. It is also used, with some frequency, for non-standard indications in cats such as chronic kidney disease and gingivostomatitis. Another non-standard indication that is treated in both dogs and cats, as you may remember from this previous blog, is inflammatory bowel disease.

These and other non-standard indications fall under VetStem’s clinical research department. This means that there are minimal published studies demonstrating effectiveness of stem cell therapy in the treatment of these diseases and VetStem is conducting their own research to help determine if stem cells are a viable treatment option. Clinical research cases are approved on a case-by-case basis, as stem cells are not appropriate for all disease processes.

Stem Cells Have Immunomodulatory Functions

The truth is, we don’t yet fully understand the entirety of what stem cells are capable of. That is one of the reasons why stem cell research for the treatment of various diseases is so important. While the research is ongoing, there is some evidence to suggest that stem cells have multiple immunomodulatory functions. That is, they have the ability to modulate the immune system. Thus, it makes sense that they may be helpful in controlling immune-mediated diseases.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Immune-Mediated Disease

Veterinarians have utilized VetStem Cell Therapy for a number of immune-mediated diseases. We mentioned a few of them earlier: gingivostomatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). That’s right, the literature suggests that both gingivostomatitis and IBD are immune-mediated diseases. Additional immune-mediated diseases that have been treated with VetStem Cell Therapy with some success include keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS, or dry eye), immune-mediated hemolytic anemia (IMHA), and immune-mediate polyarthritis (IMPA).

As we mentioned above, the research is ongoing so we can’t say with certainty that stem cell therapy will help in every case. Additionally, diseases present differently from patient to patient. Thus, treatment outcomes will also vary. Stem cell therapy is not a miracle cure-all treatment option. But it is a natural alternative to the potentially damaging immunosuppressive medications that are commonly used to treat immune-mediated diseases.

If you think your pet may benefit from VetStem Cell Therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Jul 8, 2022

VetStem Cell Therapy for Aquatic Animals

We recently shared information about our work with elephants in this blog. But elephants are not the only exotic animals that VetStem has worked with. We have provided cell therapy services for a number of exotic species including, but not limited to, large cats, bears, rhinos, giraffes, and several aquatic animals as well. Recently, VetStem CEO, Dr. Bob Harman, presented regenerative medicine innovations at an aquatic animal medicine conference.

Aquatic Animal Medicine

The International Association for Aquatic Animal Medicine (IAAAM) conference took place virtually over two weeks. Experts in the field gave lectures on various aquatic animal medicine topics including VetStem CEO, Dr. Bob Harman. Dr. Harman presented information about the use of regenerative medicine, particularly VetStem Cell Therapy, in aquatic animals.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Aquatic Animals

VetStem has worked with various exotic animal organizations across the United States to provide stem cell therapy for several species of aquatic animals. We have provided cell therapy services for dolphins, penguins, sea lions, sea turtles, and more. Aquatic animals have received stem cells for various conditions including arthritis, corneal conditions, and acute injuries such as a sea turtle who was injured by a propeller.

Stem Cell Use in Exotic Animal Medicine

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are regenerative cells with numerous mechanisms of action and can be applied in a wide variety of traumatic and developmental diseases. MSCs can differentiate into many tissue types, reduce pain and inflammation, induce repair and regeneration, and stimulate the formation of new blood vessels. MSCs also secrete anti-microbial molecules and have been used to treat several viral diseases including COVID-19 in people.

As leaders in the field of regenerative veterinary medicine, we take our job very seriously when it comes to the research and development of innovative regenerative medicine treatments for animals and diseases that have minimal treatment options. Maintaining the health and well-being of endangered exotic animals is particularly crucial and has become a community effort, bringing together veterinarians, scientists, and those in the animal health field across the globe. We are happy to contribute to the mission and will continue our own research to develop potentially life-saving stem cell treatments for these animals.

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Jul 1, 2022

VetStem Cell Therapy Gets Explosive Detection Dog Back to Work

When our pets are in pain, we will do whatever we can to make them more comfortable. That is why so many pet owners elect to have their pet treated with VetStem Cell Therapy. They all have one primary goal: to improve their pet’s quality of life. Keeping our pets happy and healthy is incredibly important. But when a dog’s pain is not only affecting their quality of life, but also their ability to perform very specialized tasks, getting them back to top shape is crucial.

Jax

That is the case with Jax, a German Shepherd and an explosive detection dog in Florida. Jax seemed to limp ever since he was a puppy. An X-ray revealed that he has bilateral hip dysplasia and osteoarthritis. Hip dysplasia is a deformity in the ball and socket joint of the hip that eventually leads to osteoarthritis. It is a painful condition that can greatly reduce a dog’s quality of life. And of course, it affected Jax’s ability to perform on the job.

Fortunately, Jax’s veterinarian, Dr. Jeff Christiansen of Superior Veterinary Surgical Solutions, recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. Dr. Christiansen has been utilizing VetStem Cell Therapy for over a decade and has previously provided stem cells for working police dogs.

To begin the process, fat was collected from Jax’s abdomen in a minimally invasive anesthetic procedure. The fat was processed at the VetStem processing laboratory to extract and concentrate the cells contained therein. Three injectable doses of Jax’s own stem cells were shipped to Dr. Christiansen for treatment. Jax received one injection into each hip and one intravenous dose.

According to his owner and handler, Jax responded well to the treatment. He stated, “Jax is a year and a half and, well, to say he’s a fantastic pup is an understatement. His limping is gone and he’s a typical GSD.” Jax received a follow up treatment with one IV dose approximately nine months after his initial treatment using some of his stored stem cells. Approximately two months after his second treatment, Jax’s owner said he is rocking the bomb work!

We love hearing stem cell success stories, especially when the treatment helps animals return to their important jobs like Jax! Keep up the good work, Jax!  

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Jun 24, 2022

Happy Take Your Dog To Work Day!

Posted by Bob under Dog Ownership, VetStem

Today is Take Your Dog To Work Day and as most of you know, VetStem has this one down! In fact, every day is Take Your Dog To Work Day at VetStem! We are fortunate to work in a dog friendly office where on any given day, there may be multiple dogs roaming the halls.

We of course love it but there are more benefits beyond all the extra puppy snuggles. According to one study, there is a potential correlation between bringing your dog to work and a reduction in stress levels. Scientists found that people who took their dogs to work reported lower stress throughout the day than employees without pets or those who had pets but didn’t take them to work.

Another study found that 90 percent of employees in pet friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company’s mission, fully engaged with their work, and willing to recommend their employer to others. Additionally, more than three times as many employees at pet friendly workplaces report a positive working relationship with their boss and co-workers and are more likely to stay with a company long term. Learn more here.

All of that being said, not every work environment can accommodate dogs. So if you’re not able to bring your dog to work, we invite you to live vicariously through us and enjoy these pictures of dogs at the VetStem office:

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Jun 17, 2022

COVID-19 Vaccines for Zoo Animals

Posted by Bob under COVID-19, Veterinary Medicine

You may remember that some of the first reported incidents of COVID-19 infection in animals were in zoo animals. These animals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID as a result of contact with handlers, veterinary staff, and the visiting public. Fortunately, a COVID vaccine was developed specifically for zoo animals.

COVID-19 Vaccine for Zoo Animals

The vaccine, which was developed by the global animal health company Zoetis, was formulated for animals and donated for emergency use among the great ape population at the San Diego Zoo in January of 2021. This sparked a good deal of media coverage which led to numerous requests for the vaccine from zoos and other animal facilities around the U.S. According to Zoetis, they have now donated a “total of 26,000 doses, to approximately 100 zoos and 20 conservatories, sanctuaries, and other animal organizations located across 41 states and about a dozen countries.”

A COVID vaccine for zoo animals is necessary for many reasons. For one, many zoo animals are endangered in the wild and keeping them healthy is of the utmost importance. Additionally, symptoms of COVID-19 can be difficult to treat in zoo animals and thus, it makes better sense to prevent the disease rather than treat it. The vaccine does not use live or inactivated virus, nor is it an mRNA vaccine. Instead, it is a subunit recombinant vaccine and is administered in two doses several weeks apart.

VetStem’s Work with Zoo Animals

At VetStem, we have worked with several exotic animal organizations, providing stem cell therapy for an array of diseases. We recently shared about our work with elephants suffering from a viral disease known as Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV). EEHV is a lethal viral infection that affects Asian elephants and now, increasingly, African elephants and can cause a highly fatal hemorrhagic disease.

Interestingly, it was actually our human company’s work with a COVID-19 stem cell clinical trial that led to exploring stem cells as a treatment option for EEHV. We have provided stem cell doses to several zoos in the United States who had elephants with EEHV and have gathered some promising data. Stem cells have numerous mechanisms of action, including the secretion of molecules that are anti-viral.

Maintaining the health of zoo animals, particularly those who are endangered, is crucial. Veterinarians and those in the animal health field have taken a collaborative approach, making this important endeavor a community effort. We are happy to contribute to the mission and will continue our own research to develop potentially life-saving stem cell treatments for these animals.

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Jun 10, 2022

VetStem Cell Therapy Helps Cat with Gingivostomatitis

We’ve talked about treating feline gingivostomatitis with VetStem Cell Therapy a few times on this blog. But sometimes we need more than just the science to describe how this treatment can potentially help cats. So this time, we will share a success story. Finn is a Siamese cat with gingivostomatitis who experienced an improvement in his symptoms after treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.

Gingivostomatitis Symptoms

At just five months old, Finn was diagnosed with gingivostomatitis. Gingivostomatitis is a debilitating condition characterized by chronic inflammation of the affected cat’s gums. It can be very painful and lead to inappetence, reduced grooming, and weight loss. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease. Common treatments include lifelong medical management with antibiotics, steroids, pain medications, and/or full mouth teeth extractions.

VetStem Cell Therapy for Gingivostomatitis

Current literature supports the notion that gingivostomatitis is an autoimmune disease. Mesenchymal stem cells have demonstrated the ability to migrate to areas of inflammation, down-regulate inflammation, modulate the immune system, stimulate neoangiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels), and repair damaged tissue. Additionally, a recent clinical study demonstrated that intravenous administration of adipose (fat) derived stem cells could ameliorate the clinical signs of gingivostomatitis. While more research is needed, preliminary results suggest that VetStem Cell Therapy can improve the symptoms of some cats with gingivostomatitis.

Finn’s Treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy

Finn

Finn’s owners tried several medications in an effort to improve his symptoms, but nothing worked. They were determined to not have all of his teeth extracted and were willing to do whatever it took. His veterinarian recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy and just shy of his first birthday, Finn received stem cell therapy.

To begin the process, fat was collected from Finn’s abdomen during a minimally invasive anesthetic procedure. The fat was sent to the VetStem processing laboratory. Lab technicians processed his fat to extract and concentrate his stem and regenerative cells and Finn received one intravenous injection of his own cells. Approximately four weeks later, Finn received a second intravenous dose using some of the stem cells banked from his initial fat collection.

According to his owners, Finn responded well to the treatment. His owner stated, “[the stem cell treatment] seemed to improve and maintain his condition especially over time so that Finn is happy, healthy, and living a great life. We plan to administer cells every year or so to keep his condition manageable and hopefully keep him healthier too.”

If your cat has gingivostomatitis, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy. Or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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