Aug 23, 2019

Is Your Pet Overweight?

Posted by Bob under Cat Arthritis, Dog Arthritis, Pet Obesity

In previous blog posts, we discussed risk factors for osteoarthritis and how to reduce or delay the onset of osteoarthritis.  In both of those posts, we mentioned that a pet being overweight may contribute to his/her development of osteoarthritis. 

Unfortunately, it is estimated that approximately 56% of dogs and 60% of cats in the United States are overweight or obese.  But how can you tell if your pet is overweight?  Below are some tools to help you determine if your pet is overweight.

One way to tell if your pet is overweight is to determine your pet’s body condition score.  You can look this up online and find pictures of what your pet’s ideal body should look like.  Below is an example of a body score chart for dogs and cats.  What score does your pet receive?  If you’re not sure, your veterinarian can help to determine your pet’s body condition score.

Notice in the chart above, the pictures show the view of dogs and cats from the top.  Looking at your pet from above can be a helpful way to determine if your pet is overweight.  Like the chart above says, you should be able to feel your pet’s ribs but not see them.  There should be a slight layer of fat over your pet’s ribs.  Your pet should also taper at their waist- a bit like an hourglass shape.

Another sign that your pet is overweight is reduced stamina or increased lethargy.  Is your dog panting more or not able to walk as far?  Is your cat unable to jump up on furniture?  Note that these signs can also indicate other, more serious conditions so if you’re concerned about your pet’s behavior, take him/her to the vet.

Nobody wants to be told that their pet is overweight.  But it puts your pet at risk of many diseases so it should not be ignored.  In addition to osteoarthritis, obesity can lead to serious health conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.  Alternatively, your pet may be obese as a result of a health problem such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease. 

If you believe your pet may be overweight, a visit to the veterinarian is probably in order.  Luckily, there are steps you can take to ensure your pet maintains an ideal weight or to help your pet lose weight.  Your vet can rule out underlying diseases and also help you establish a nutritionally sound diet as well as an exercise routine that is appropriate for your buddy.

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Aug 16, 2019

Stem Cells for Immune Mediated Polyarthritis

In previous blogs, we have discussed stem cell therapy for non-standard indications, or what we call “compassionate use” cases.  These are cases where there is limited data to show that stem cell therapy is effective however what results we do have, may look promising.  Examples include kidney disease, canine back pain, as well as several other diseases/conditions for which stem cells may be beneficial.  One such indication is Immune Mediated Polyarthritis, or IMPA for short. 

While IMPA is a form of arthritis, it is not the typical osteoarthritis that stem cells are used for regularly.  Rather than being caused by a malformed joint, wear and tear or trauma, IMPA is caused by the patient’s own immune system.  It is important to note that polyarthritis can be caused by an infection in the patient’s body.  Distinguishing between an infection and IMPA is imperative because treatment options are very different.  In this blog, we will discuss stem cell therapy for the treatment of IMPA.

In patients with IMPA, the immune system creates an inflammatory response and inappropriately sends white blood cells to the joints.  This in turn causes inflammation, pain, swelling, and difficulty waking.  The reason it is called “Polyarthritis” is because many of the joints may be affected in patients with IMPA.  While this condition is more common in dogs, it can affect cats as well.  IMPA is similar to Rheumatoid arthritis in humans.

Immune mediated diseases can be some of the most challenging cases for veterinarians to treat.  There are few therapeutic options when it comes to regulating an aberrant immune system.  Common treatment options include immunosuppression, often with steroids.  As most of you know, steroid use comes with several negative side effects and is not ideal for long-term use in dogs and cats.

So how may VetStem Cell Therapy help?  Well, we know that stem cells play a key role in not only managing pain but also in down-regulating inflammation.  Perhaps most importantly for these cases, stem cells have demonstrated immunomodulatory characteristics and the ability to help balance a patient’s immune system.  The study of stem cells for immune mediated diseases in both animals and humans is ongoing. 

IMPA is not the only immune mediated disease being treated with stem cells, however.  Veterinarians have utilized VetStem Cell Therapy to treat an array of immune mediated diseases, and we continue to gather data and monitor patient outcomes.  Some additional examples of immune mediated diseases that veterinarians are treating with VetStem Cell Therapy include canine dry eye, inflammatory bowel disease in dogs and cats, as well as feline chronic gingivostomatitis.

If your dog or cat is suffering from IMPA or another immune mediated disease, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.  Or you can contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Aug 9, 2019

More News from VetStem’s Human Stem Cell Company

Posted by Bob under Human Stem Cells

As we shared in a recent blog, VetStem launched a human stem cell company known as Personalized Stem Cells, Inc (PSC) in late 2018.  PSC was founded to advance and legitimize human regenerative medicine through FDA approved clinical trials.  As such, it was announced in June that PSC submitted their first FDA-IND (“Investigational New Drug”) application for the treatment of osteoarthritis, with the first clinical trial to be for patients with OA in the knee.

In less than one year since the company’s formation, PSC recently announced that their application was approved for conducting clinical trials for the treatment of osteoarthritis using stem cells.  The fast approval was in large part due to VetStem’s extensive experience and data from stem cell therapy in the veterinary field.

This is the first of several planned INDs that PSC will seek FDA approval for.  Similar to the VetStem model, they plan to start with orthopedic conditions and eventually expand to include other medical conditions.  Like VetStem, PSC will follow strict quality control and safety protocols.

For the first clinical trial, PSC has enrolled a limited number of clinical sites around the U.S. to provide treatment for knee osteoarthritis using stem cells. The enrolled physicians are among the most experienced stem cell physicians in the country.  You can contact PSC for clinical trial information, clinical trial site locations, or investment information.

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Aug 2, 2019

Tips to Help Reduce or Delay Osteoarthritis in Dogs

Posted by Bob under Dog Arthritis

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects approximately one quarter of the dog population.  OA is a chronic disease that is characterized by cartilage loss and bone changes in the affected joint(s).  Symptoms include painful joints and decreased or limited mobility.  While certain breeds of dogs, usually larger breed dogs, may be predisposed to developing OA, all dogs are at risk for developing this chronic condition.

Developing good habits early on may help to delay the onset of OA or may reduce the severity of the disease.  Below we have highlighted some general steps you can take to help prevent OA in your dog.  But remember, we advise that you first consult with your veterinarian to get a preventative plan tailored specifically to your dog.

Which brings us to our first step: regular veterinary visits.  Taking your dog to your vet for regular checkups may help to identify conditions that could lead to arthritis as well as identify arthritis early on in the disease process.  Your vet may be able to spot some of the earliest signs of OA even if your dog has not shown any typical symptoms such as limping or decreased mobility.  Early detection and treatment may help reduce the severity of damage to the joint(s).

Your veterinarian may also recommend a nutritionally sound diet for a slower rate of growth and joint supplements.  Joint supplements such as glucosamine and chondroitin can help to slow the loss of cartilage, the tissue that cushions your dog’s joints.  Omega-3 fatty acids may help reduce inflammation in the body.  It is best to speak to your veterinarian to determine which supplements and/or diet will be best for your dog. 

Exercise can also play an important role in reducing wear and tear on your dog’s joints.  Various breeds of dogs require different amounts and different types of exercise.  Work with your veterinarian to develop an exercise routine that is tailored to your dog.  By exercising your dog in the appropriate manner, you may be keeping them lean and building muscle which can help support their joints.

Keeping your dog at an ideal weight is essential in minimizing the wear and tear on your dog’s joints.  Like people, a dog’s body is not designed to carry too much extra weight.  When a dog is overweight, they are more likely to develop OA.  Speak with your veterinarian to develop a good nutritional plan for your dog to help maintain a healthy weight. If your dog has already been diagnosed with OA, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of VetStem Cell Therapy.  Or contact us to receive a list of VetStem providers in your area.

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Jul 26, 2019

Horse Returns to Work After Partial Ligament Tear

Atlas is a large Quarter Horse that keeps busy with drill team, barrel racing, jumping, cow work, and trail riding.  So, you can imagine how devastating it was for both Atlas and his owner when he partially tore his right front suspensory ligament and was only able to walk.  Fortunately, his veterinarian, Dr. Colter Negranti of Paso Robles Equine, recommended treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.

After stem cell therapy, Atlas underwent months of rehab.  Once he was feeling better, he began working again and, according to his owner, he stayed as sound as ever.  You can catch up on Atlas’ story here.

We recently checked in on Atlas and his owner reported that he continues to do great!  He participated in a barrel race in June and his owner stated, “The race went really well (it was our first multiple day outing) and we won some money!  Now we’re getting ready for finals, plus lots of trail riding since the summer weather has been so great!”  See a picture of Atlas from the race below.

As many horse owners know, working horses tend to be at a higher risk for injuries.  Some injuries may affect the long-term career of the horse.  VetStem Cell Therapy has helped several horses return to work (and even win championships!) after potentially career-ending injuries including CP Merritt, Anthony, and AR River Playboy.  If your horse has suffered an injury, speak to your veterinarian about the possibility of treatment with VetStem Cell Therapy.   

Atlas at his recent race
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Jul 19, 2019

Veterinarian Highlight: Cindy Echevarria, DVM

This week we would like to introduce you to VetStem proponent, Dr. Cindy Echevarria of VCA University Animal Hospital in Dallas.  Dr. Echevarria has been utilizing VetStem Cell Therapy since early 2015 and has treated nearly 40 patients, including her own dog, Bella.  Dr. Echevarria also treated Stuart, the Lab with a soft tissue injury and Seve, a Golden Retriever with osteoarthritis in his hips.

We recently caught up with Dr. Echevarria to ask her some questions about how she utilizes VetStem Cell Therapy.  See her answers below.

At what point in the process do you recommend stem cell therapy for your patients (ie, when the injury/ailment is first diagnosed, after meds have proven unsuccessful/detrimental, etc.)

I usually recommend stem cell for all orthopedic injury cases, particularly ACL tears, and arthritic cases.  For cruciate injuries I find combining the TPLO or repair surgery with the collection part of the stem cell process to be easy on the pet and the owner since the recovery process goes unchanged.  Anything that does not inconvenience the owner further but helps the pet makes it easier to relay the benefits to the owner.  Since aftercare alone is a lot to take on for each procedure alone, being able to manage both at the same time saves the owner time and stress (versus doing the procedures independently).  Also, as discussed at the time of injury, once one ACL tears it is very common for the other to tear in the future.  Having the stem cells available in the future allows for re-infusion into originally affected limb and new limb if needed without having to collect additional cells.  Some owners do not have the funds to do all at once, but at least discussing the options with them helps them narrow down where their funds would be best utilized.

I also commonly bring it up for owners who are tired of what they perceive as over-medicating or “nothing works” idea.  Many of the cases I have done that were on medications have been able to be reduced significantly to none in some cases.  Although it can be mentioned as last resort if nothing else works, I feel like the sooner stem cell is used on the pet, the higher chances of success.  Including offering StemInsure when they are young (at time of spay or neuter) for those breeds that are prone to arthritis or those dogs (hunting, agility, etc) that are at higher risk of needing stem cell in their future.

I had a Newfoundland puppy that I did StemInsure on for her potential bilateral elbow dysplasia that her predecessor had and the fact of her size/breed overall.  2.5 years later she tore her ACL.  Her cells were already stored at that time and only had to be processed at the time of her knee repair.  Worked really well and the owners were pleased that that had even been offered back when she was a puppy.  It has been about 1.5 years since her TPLO/stem cell infusion and she continues to not need pain management.  She only takes Dasuquin (which I advise for all my patients with injuries or arthritis), regardless of stem cell.

What parameters make a patient a good candidate for stem cell therapy?

*are we on pain management and only minimal improvement?

*has the pet been on long term meds and liver/kidney values now an issue?  medications are more limited now

*are their neurologic deficits?   If yes, I generally do not proceed with stem cell.  I always offer a free initial assessment to see if stem cell would even be an option for the pet.

*does the pet have or has had cancer?  I usually do not proceed with stem cell.

*what other conditions might the pet have that would compromise the effectiveness of the stem cells or are they higher risk for anesthesia for the collection process? 

Advice for pet owners considering stem cell therapy for their pet.

There is so much benefit from stem cell aside from joint related ailments, that just reading about it and asking for testimonials goes a long way.  I am always open to calls for those interested or just want to know more about it.  I am also very real about the fact that it is intense and probably inconvenient for most the following 8 weeks after infusion, but it does get results.    

If you’re located in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and are interested in VetStem Cell Therapy for your dog or cat, we recommend a visit with Dr. Echevarria.

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Jul 12, 2019

Meet Our Chief Operating Officer, Dr. Carolyn Wrightson.

Posted by Bob under VetStem Biopharma

This week we would like to introduce you to a vital member of our team: our Chief Operating Officer Dr. Carolyn Wrightson.  Dr. Wrightson has been with VetStem since 2006 though she has over 20 years of experience in biochemistry, molecular biology, and molecular pathology.  She started out as our Director of Lab Operations and Quality Services.  She continues to manage our two laboratories as well as our Research and Development team.

Dr. Wrightson received her BS from Mount St. Mary’s College in Biology and Biochemistry in 1991, her MS from USC in Pathology in 1993, and her PhD from USC in Pathology in 1996.  She also completed a Post-Doc at The Scripps Research Institute in Molecular and Experimental Medicine.  Paired with CEO Dr. Bob Harman’s expert knowledge and determination to develop and improve the stem cell industry, Dr. Wrightson’s expertise is a driving force behind the ongoing development of our off-the-shelf stem cell drug as well as the recent launch of our human stem cell company, which we discussed in a recent blog

As you may have noticed in our blogs about our Director of Commercial Operations and our Director of Clinical Development, most of our employees wear many hats at VetStem.  So, while Dr. Wrightson is busy managing both our commercial and manufacturing laboratories, she also serves as our unofficial IT liaison as well as our building maintenance manager.  If a computer gets a virus or the air conditioner stops working, Dr. Wrightson is on the phone organizing a technician to come fix the problem.

In her spare time (most of us are amazed she even has spare time) Dr. Wrightson enjoys spending time with her two children Tehya, who is 15, and Kaiden who is 7, as well as with her husband Shane.  She travels to volleyball competitions with Tehya and gardens with Kaiden. She enjoys baking and crocheting.  She also has four dogs: Alejandro, Ryder, Koda, and Jasper, and two birds: Mango and Skittles.

Dr. Wrightson’s ability to manage multiple priorities at once is second to none.  Her knowledge and expertise, along with her incredible work ethic, makes her an extremely valuable part of the VetStem team.  Thank you, Dr. Wrightson, for your hard work and dedication!

Carolyn and Tehya
Shane and Kaiden
Jasper and Koda
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Jun 28, 2019

Translational Medicine: How Animals Are Helping Humans

VetStem was recently featured in a documentary about Regenerative Veterinary Medicine called Animal Pharm: Where Beasts Meet Biotech.  We’ll share more about this soon, but one interesting aspect of the film is the commentary on how advances made in veterinary medicine are translating into the human medical field.

It’s not an uncommon narrative: a new medial technology or drug emerges in the veterinary field and after research and outcome data are compiled, scientists and doctors begin to wonder how humans may benefit from the same technology.  Known as translational medicine, Animal Pharm takes a look at how we’ve begun to apply what we know about stem cell therapy for animals to human medicine.

As a leader in the field of Regenerative Veterinary Medicine, VetStem strives to remain one step ahead and we recently announced the launch of our human stem cell company, Personalized Stem Cells, Inc. (PSC).  PSC was launched to advance and legitimize human regenerative medicine, which until recently, has been largely unregulated.  Recent regulatory action by the FDA, FTC, and the Federation of State Medical Boards has made it clear however that the only allowed use of stem cells will be through legitimate FDA clinical trials.

As such, PSC plans to launch FDA approved human stem cell clinical trials later this year.  The company recently announced their first Investigational New Drug application to the FDA for the treatment of osteoarthritis in the knee.  If you are interested in more information, you can contact PSC here.

These are exciting times we’re living in.  Though our primary goal has been to improve the lives of animals, it was always in the back of our minds that the technology we’ve worked so hard to develop and advance might one day be able to help humans also.  We are excited to see this dream becoming a reality.

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Jun 21, 2019

Meet Sue, VetStem’s Director of Clinical Development

In this week’s “Meet VetStem” blog series, we introduce you to Sue, our Director of Clinical Development.  Sue has been with VetStem from the get-go and with her level of experience, she wears many hats.  In her role as Director of Clinical Development, Sue helps Dr. Bob Harman and Kristi oversee the compassionate use stem cell cases.  She also handles the exotic animal cases such as Francis, the sun bear from the San Diego Zoo.  In addition to this, Sue works closely with our Quality Assurance and R&D teams to conduct and manage clinical studies and collect and analyze post-study data.  Perhaps one of her most important roles at VetStem is that of Animal Safety Advocate.  In this role, Sue oversees the safety of all patients treated with VetStem Cell Therapy to identify and remedy any potential risks associated with treatment.

Sue has a BS from UC Davis and is a Certified Animal Health Technician.  Prior to joining VetStem, Sue worked in various animal and scientific fields.  Her animal experience ranges from grooming and training dogs to working with dairy cattle and pigs.  She has trained her own dogs in various activities including obedience, scent hurdle racing, herding, and agility but mostly just how to be a pleasant part of the family.  Animals have been a part of her family for as long as she can remember including dogs, cats, birds, and horses.

Sue and Dr. Harman share two adult children, Kristi and Kevin, both of which were homeschooled at various points in time before college.  They currently own 6 cats, 3 dogs, 2 horses, and several birds.  Two of their dogs, Ben and Sally (pictured below), can be seen hanging around the VetStem office on a regular basis.  In her free time, Sue enjoys trail walks, especially near bodies of water.  She also enjoys studying about various holistic therapies and tries to apply them to herself and her family, both 2 and 4 legged.

Sue’s commitment to patient safety and quality assurance is unparalleled.  With her level of knowledge and attention to detail, Sue is an essential member of the VetStem team.  Thank you, Sue for your hard work and dedication!

 

Sue

Kristi and Kevin

Sally

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Jun 14, 2019

Can Stem Cells be Used in Patients with Cancer?

Cancer is a diagnosis no pet owner wants to hear.  Occasionally pet owners will contact us to ask if VetStem Cell Therapy can be used to treat or cure their pet’s cancer.  Unfortunately, VetStem cells cannot be used to treat cancer.  But what about pet’s who have an orthopedic condition that may benefit from stem cell therapy who also have cancer?

As a precaution, we monitor the occurrence of cancer in patients treated with VetStem Cell Therapy closely and have not seen a higher incidence than what is reported in patients of the same age group that were not treated with stem cells.  The literature supports that adult stem cells do not directly turn into cancer cells.  There is also literature regarding stem cell therapy in women who have had mastectomies which shows no higher incidence of recurrence of cancer.

VetStem takes a conservative approach when it comes to patients with cancer because there is still a lot that we don’t know about stem cells and how they work so we err on the side of safety.  We do not recommend stem cell therapy for patients with active or recent cancer.

However, as pet owners ourselves, we understand that in some cases, the potential benefits of stem cell therapy may outweigh the potential risk in patients with active or recent cancer and therefore a pet owner may elect to move forward with stem cell therapy.  This decision is usually reached after a consultation between your veterinarian and a VetStem veterinarian and requires pet owners to sign a special waiver. Some things to consider when making this decision are: age of your pet, severity of the cancer, other medical conditions, and your pet’s current quality of life. There is also an option for patients with cancer to only receive joint injections and not an intravenous injection.

If you have any questions about stem cell therapy, speak to your veterinarian or contact a VetStem representative.

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