“Stem cell” is a term that gets thrown around a lot in the media, yet few people really understand what stem cells are and how they are being utilized on a day-to-day basis. Stem cell therapy for pets is certainly on the forefront of modern veterinary medicine, and is just one more way your team at Billings Animal Family Hospital is working to bring the best care to your furry family.
A Stem Cell Primer
So, what on earth are stem cells? While they often get a fancy rap in the media, stem cells are really the most basic cells in our bodies. They are the immature cells that develop into more specialized tissues as they grow.
Their power lies within the fact that they have not yet decided what they want to be when they grow up. Using modern science, we can guide these impressionable young cells to develop into just about anything we need them to be. This is especially valuable when we are treating an area that has been injured.
Tissues, such as tendons and cartilage, are not especially known for their healing power, and introducing stem cells to produce new, healthy tissue may be just the ticket for some situations.
We can find stem cells in several places in the body. Typical harvest locations include:
- Embryonic tissues
- Bone marrow
- Adipose (fat) tissue
- The bloodstream
Adipose tissue is the most readily available and easily harvested source of stem cells in our pet patients, and this is the most common place that we harvest them from. Taking stem cells from the pet patient who needs them also decreases any risk to an adverse reaction when they are implanted. They belong to the patient, after all!
Stem Cell Therapy for Pets
Stem cell therapy for pets is becoming a cornerstone of treatment for many types of diseases and injuries that we diagnose. It is a wonderful option because it is minimally invasive, quite cost-effective, and we can generally expect great results.
Collecting the stem cells typically requires brief anesthesia. Once they are harvested, the adipose cells are separated from the stem cells using a high-speed centrifuge. The stem cell portion is then collected, and the concentrated supply of these special little cells can be directly transplanted into the area in need.
We are still learning about all of the different ways that we can use stem cells. Someday we may even be able to regrow organs! For now, though, we are routinely putting this incredible technology to use to treat:
- Tendon or ligament injuries
- Defects in cartilage
- Bone fractures
- Developmental orthopedic problems
- As part of orthopedic surgery
Because stem cell therapy for pets is so safe and effective, it can make up an integral part of the treatment plan for many of our patients. We are always in search of ways to better our care for your special friend, and stem cell therapy is just one more way that we are able to do so.