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First Posted: Mar 27, 2011
Mar 27, 2011

Stem Cell Use for Horses

Stem cell research might be the next horizon for helping our equine friends. My husband and I attended a seminar on March 22, 2011 at the Marion duPont Scott Equine Medical Center, Leesburg, VA. The seminar was on Lameness. One of the areas that was discussed was the use of stem cell research in helping in the repair of injuries to tendons, ligaments, cargilage and bone in the horse. It is being done with some success.

Stem Cell Research to Revolutionize Equine Lameness Therapies

Austin, Texas - In a breakthrough for the performance horse industry, ViaGen, Inc. is partnering with the Monash Institute of Melbourne, Australia, to harness equine stem cells to repair tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone damage in horses.

Dr. Paul Verma of the Monash Institute of Medical Research is working to develop equine embryonic stem cell lines, with the goal of creating a 'bank' of stem cells genetically matched to individual horses.

Tendon, ligament and cartilage injuries can range from minor inflammation to complete rupture, which can result in permanent lameness and the end of a horse's competitive life. Once a horse has damaged a tendon or ligament, the risk of re-injury is very high. Bone damage varies in severity, with the most serious cases resulting in the euthanasia of the injured horse. Stem cells have the potential to reverse this damage.

"We have developed techniques to derive stem cells from horse embryos, and through a pilot study, we have successfully created a number of equine embryonic stem cell lines," Dr. Verma said. "The next step will be to look at using these stem cell lines to regenerate tendon, ligament, cartilage and bone cells. Once the stem cells can be coaxed into ‘becoming’ the appropriate tissue cells, they can be transplanted to replace the damaged tissue."

The natural source of therapeutic cells developed by Dr. Verma will be recognized by a horse's immune system as its own; there will be no risk of the tissue rejection that can occur with conventional transplants. "The risk of rejection will be overcome because the new tissue will genetically match the horse receiving treatment," said Dr. Irina Polejaeva, ViaGen's Chief Scientific Officer.

Having ready access to a bank of individually-tailored equine cells will greatly speed up the rehabilitation process for injured horses, and give them a chance to resume activities that might otherwise have become impossible. Current stem cell therapies involve aspirating adipose (fat) derived cells or bone marrow cells from the injured horse. The cells are then sent to a laboratory and grown into the required tissue cells — a process that can take up to three weeks. The use of equine embryonic stem cells guarantees to revolutionize equine lameness therapies.

Embryonic Stem Cell Advantages:

  1. Flexible: Have the potential to make any cell type.
  2. Immortal: One embryonic stem cell line can potentially provide an endless supply of cells with defined characteristics.
  3. Availability: Unlimited production of embryos through somatic cell nuclear transfer process.

Current Stem Cell Technique Disadvantages:

  1. Limited quantity - Can be difficult to obtain in large numbers.
  2. Finite - Do not live as long as embryonic stem cells in culture.
  3. Less flexible - Difficult to reprogram to form other tissue types.
About: Monash Institute of Medical Research:

The Monash Institute of Medical Research was established in 1991 by Emeritus Professor David de Kretser AC, the Governor of Victoria, Australia. Since then, the Institute has pioneered research into the characterization and application of stem cells; the cause and treatment of inflammation and cancer; and the improvement of women's, men's and children's health.

Dr. Paul Verma: Dr Paul Verma is renowned internationally for his research into reprogramming somatic cells and the isolation and characterization of embryonic and adult stem cells. His overarching research aim is to produce autologous (patient-specific) stem cells, using cell reprogramming techniques such as somatic cell nuclear transfer and iPS cell technology that are clinically relevant and transplantable into humans. He has published many scientific papers and edited a book on transgenesis, cloning and stem cells. He is listed as principal inventor on eight granted and provisional patents in the field of cell reprogramming and stem cells.

For More Information:

UK Stem Cell Company Cures Race Horse Tendons, Humans Next
Scientists Generate Pluripotent Stem Cells from Horses/ScienceDaily
Enhanced Suspensory Ligament Healing in 100 Horses by Stem Cells/Other Bone Marrow Components

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