Stem cell therapy has become popular for the treatment of tendon, ligament and joint diseases in the horse. A stem cell has pluripotency (it can become any type of cell) or multipotency (it can become any cell, but with limitations). We can take fat, skin, blood or, more commonly, bone marrow and, under specialist laboratory conditions, stem cells can be cultured. These can be placed in areas of injury, where they can integrate into local tissue and aid in repairing injury.
Equine Stem Cells
Current technology enables us to take cells from a horse and implant the cultured tissue back into the same horse (known as autologous therapy). We never use cells from one horse to treat another. Implantation is usually, for a tendon injury, a straightforward procedure, performed under sedation and using ultrasound to guide the injection. This can be performed on an out-patient basis. Injections of stem cells into joints or other more complicated lesions may necessitate a general anaesthetic, particularly if the treatment requires inspection and treatment via 'keyhole' surgery. These cases will need to be hospitalised for a day or two.
The veterinary surgeon responsible for your horse will discuss the potential benefits and risks associated with stem cell therapy, together with post-implantation care and exercise. Complications are very rare. In most cases, we like to see the horse for follow-up assessment between one and three months after implantation.
If you have any specific questions about the procedure, costs, or the value of stem cells in treating injuries in horses, please contact Andy Bathe at Rossdales Equine Diagnostic Centre.