We are pioneers in regenerative medicine. Regenerative medicine is the targeted application of the patient's own cells; either platelets (PRP), bone marrow aspirate concentrate (BMAC), or adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSC), into an injured tissue in turn stimulating the body to repair, renew, or regenerate the patient's own damages or diseased tissues. Under proper circumstances, it can offer transformative healing potential.
Regenerative Medicine is a relatively new field in both human and veterinary medicine in which the clinician harnesses the power of the patient’s own cells to promote healing and/ or restore the structure and function of the patient’s own body. Through the applications of immunotherapy, aka stem cell therapy, our goal is to recruit the innate regenerative capabilities of the body to regenerate new tissue in diseased or damaged areas. These techniques have been used successfully to treat degenerative joint disease (arthritis); to speed and promote organized bone, tendon, and ligament healing; treatment of inflammatory conditions such as atopy, inflammatory bowel disease, gingival stomatitis, asthma, perianal fistulas, polyarthritis and immune mediated arthritis; liver and kidney diseases; and to treat spinal cord injuries and intervertebral disk disease. This list is not all inclusive and is continually growing and changing with advances made through clinical and bench top research.
Another emerging field in the advancement of human and veterinary medicine is termed Translational Medicine. Translational Medicine is defined by three main pillars: bench side, bedside, and community. The goal of Translational Medicine is to combine disciplines, resources, expertise, and techniques to promote enhancements in the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment modalities in order to bring knowledge from the research setting into the clinical arena much sooner to the benefit of the community.
What does this mean? Many diseases process’ cross species lines. Examples, arthritis in people, dogs and cats share a similar pathophysiology, or disease process in the development of the disease, and their treatment recommendations are very similar. Immune mediated conditions such as Crohn’s disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, atopy, and asthma are believed to be very similar in presentation and response to various treatments. Clinical research trials in human medicine can be ‘translated’ into our veterinary patients due to their similarities in cause and response to treatment.
What does this mean for our veterinary patients? Advances made in human medicine can speed our understanding and benefit our veterinary patients without necessarily having to recreate the wheel. Or, we could say, we are using humans as our ‘research animals’.
There is a wealth of knowledge growing in our understanding of stem cell therapies. The number of research studies published on a daily basis in this field is astronomical. We can study their findings, tailor those treatments to our pets, and achieve positive therapeutic benefits in our patients much sooner.
The bottom line to remember is, stem cell therapies done properly with regards to case selection, cellular processing, cell culturing and storage, and administration is safe, effective, and has been shown to be non-harmful to the patient.
‘Do no harm’- is the first requirement of any treatment recommendation.
Stem cells are the body’s repair cells. Stem cells have the ability to renew or divide to replace themselves or differentiate into different types of cells such as skin, fat, muscle, bone, cartilage, liver, nerve, etc. Stem cell therapy is ‘Green Medicine’. A spin on words, but stem cells are a safe, all natural- you are using your own cells to heal yourself, non-surgical treatment modality, and non-pharmaceutical meaning you don’t have to worry about all those side affects you see on the television ads from giving medications that simply cover up the symptoms like a band-aide.
Stem cells are known to exert anti-inflammatory, anti-proliferative, and immunomodulatory effects. Stem cells function through excretion of chemokines and cytokines which help with cell to cell communication. Recently, in a study at the University of California School of Veterinary Medicine, researchers found in a group of cats that their ratio of CD4 to CD8 cells completely flipped following stem cell therapy. What does this mean? This group of cats had a condition known as stomatitis. Stomatitis is a severe, debilitating dental condition in cats causing drooling, pain on eating, and weight loss. Initially these cats had a high CD8 count and a low CD4 count. CD8 cells are also called cytotoxic T cells and are harmful to a healthy immune system while CD4 cells are known as helper T cells and they are beneficial. Patients with HIV/AIDS have a high CD8 to CD4 ration and these patients have a toxic or weak immune system. Back to the group of cats, the researchers found after receiving stem cell therapy their clinical signs resolved and the cats became happy, comfortable and gained weight. When they evaluated their cell counts they found that the ratio had flipped! Now these cats had a high CD4 count and a low CD8 count thus essentially turning their immune system on their head! So, what other conditions can we treat? Well, any condition where the immune system might be out of sorts such as atopy or allergies, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, to name a few.
Stem cells are found in all tissues. Stem cells can be harvested from either your pet’s bone marrow or from their own fat. Fat contains upwards of 1000x more stem cells per equal volume as compared to bone marrow and is readily accessible. A small incision is made into the abdomen like a spay. The falciform fat which has a large number of blood vessels is removed and submitted for processing. Stem cells are found in the spaces surrounding the blood vessels. Subcutaneous fat from the belly is also used when additional fat is needed. The fat is processed and the stem cells can either be returned for injection, cultured to obtain a therapeutic dose, and subsequently a fraction can be banked in liquid nitrogen for future use.
Another commonly seen condition in our dogs is a torn cranial cruciate ligament aka ACL tear as seen in people. Either traumatic or degenerative, we see our dog patients present with varying degree of pain, inflammation, and lameness due to tearing of the CCL and the subsequent instability within the knee. Traditionally, surgical and non-surgical (medical therapies) have been recommended based on the individual patient. Surgery is often recommended in larger, more active dogs to help return the pet to normal function sooner with less risk of long-term arthritis. Tibial Plateau Leveling Osteotomy (TPLO) is one of the more commonly recommended surgical procedures due to its speed of recovery, return to athletic function, and lower risk of long term arthritis progression. Unfortunately, the TPLO requires a cut in the bone and a bone plate that may or may not have issues long term. Recently we have documented many cases of CCL injury which are amenable to stem cell therapy. In particular, dogs with partial CCL injury (where less than 50% of the ligament is diseased) can successfully regain full form and function with regeneration of the diseased CCL after injection of the patients own stem cells into the knee. These amazing little stem cells that are naturally hanging out in the fat, when awoken and placed in the diseased knee, will repair and regenerate the diseased CCL and lead to 100% healing of the ligament. And, this is a non surgical (other than the procedure to collect the fat or bone marrow) alternative for CCL injury which affords a full recovery by means of the body itself.
Previously mentioned above was stomatitis, likewise atophy or allergies have also been successfully treated with stem cells. Previously, allergies have been treated with anti histamines, steroids, special prescription diets, or other specific/ expensive medications to help alleviate or ‘band aide’ the clinical symptoms of the allergies. Whether we are talking inhalant allergies, food allergies, contact allergies, or an over active immune system as seen with inflammatory bowel disease, regenerative medicine or stem cell therapies have successfully alleviated these patient’s clinical signs and symptoms and greatly if not totally eliminated their need for prescription band aides.
Again, many of these conditions are approached by the staff at SBVW as a whole patient approach. We look holistically at each pet and their condition and see what other modalities may benefit. Hippocrates stated ‘let food be thy medicine and medicine by thy food.’ We all know the gas we put into our cars can make a profound impact on performance. We also know if we eat poorly and emphasize fast food and sodas, our own bodies will feel the negative effects. The documentary called ‘Supersize me’ very dramatically showed what a fast food diet will do to one emotionally, physically, and biochemically. So, when we are addressing your pet’s medical conditions, we will look at all aspects: diet, activity/ exercise/ lifestyle, need for supplements to help balance the body, etc in order to optimize our positive outcome. Many clients find this information life changing for themselves and the whole family can heal as one.
The Right Approach
At SBVW, the doctors have had extensive education, training, and clinical application of these modalities. The efficacy of treatment depends upon several factors. Sometimes a dog will experience an incredible change. Sometimes effects are muted. Risk and complications are minimal; however, Dr. Murphy takes the application of these cells, his patients, and the cells' well- being very seriously. Therefore we strive for success, and the best way to achieve this is through proper education, training, and case selection.