Lame dogs brought to heal with stem cells

Stem cell injections in dogs will become routine in the next two years and will probably cost less than $1000.

The first data, collated last week, into the use of the procedure where cultured cells are injected into the joints of dogs with hip dysplasia or canine osteoarthritis has shown a success rate of 96 per cent.

The procedure will be made available to veterinary clinics, promoted at dog shows and possibly in a television campaign.

It has been transformed in little more than a year with stem cells from one animal used to treat other dogs.

Previously, an invasive procedure was necessary, with incisions to remove subcutaneous or fatty tissue from the affected dog and stem cells isolated in a laboratory before being injected back into the dog.

The procedure resulted in a culture containing only about 10 per cent to 15 per cent stem cells, while the culture from a donor in a breed with a genetic line clear of arthritis can been screened to provide a culture containing 100 per cent stem cells.

The figures were collected from vets by Australian Veterinary Stem Cells, which supplies stem cell treatments and has a partnership with the immunology and stem cell research department at Monash University in Melbourne.

The sample size for the study was small at 150 but only about 1000 animals have had the treatment.

The results found that with an injection into the affected joint, 60 per cent of dogs had a ''significant improvement'' while 96 per cent of dogs showed ''improvement''.

For dogs given an intravenous injection - usually older animals not suitable for a general anaesthetic - vets reported 79 per cent improved.

The executive chairman of the company, Peter Hansen, said: ''We have been treating dogs commercially since late 2010 but doing it specifically with a small number of vets to accumulate data. We have not marketed to the veterinary community - that is about to start.

''When you go into the joint, you need fewer cells so it is cheaper - going into one joint for a small dog we would have thought with off-the-shelf stem cells that vets should not be charging a four-figure amount.'' The treatment of tendon and ligament damage in horses was also showing encouraging results, Mr Hansen said.

Other areas of veterinary research include treatment of diabetes in cats and dogs, renal problems in cats and dermatitis in dogs.

Peter Britton of the St George Animal Hospital in Carlton gave Australia's first canine stem cell injection seven years ago - to an Airedale called Wooster. He said: ''In the next couple of years, things will become treatable that we cannot treat now … for some diseases, it will probably become routine.''

Wooster's owner, Colleen Nacson, said: ''She was about six when she had it and it seemed like she was a 10 or 11-year-old. The result was fantastic, I could see a change within 48 hours.''

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