When I attended the Western Veterinary Conference in Las Vegas, I had the good fortune to interview stem cell therapy expert Chad Maki, DVM. Dr. Maki is the Chief Medical Officer for VetCell™ Therapeutics™. The company has just started offering stem cell therapy treatments for dogs with Osteoarthritis. Dr. Maki took the time to explain the treatments available, the cost and the benefits.
Stem cell therapy has always been a fascinating part of medicine to me. I love the idea that a treatment made from your body’s individual cells is able to not only treat a condition, but has the potential to regenerate damaged tissue to cure it. I am sure this explanation of cell-based therapy is much too simplified, but that’s how I understand the process.
When Sophie started to lose her ability to walk, I called a stem cell veterinary hospital in California to see if they would evaluate her. Unfortunately the treatment hadn’t developed far enough to benefit dogs with neurological problems and even now in 2016; stem cell therapy is still in the beginning stages. Today laboratories like VetCell work primarily with pets that have degenerative diseases like Osteoarthritis.
Here is what Dr. Maki had to say about stem cell therapy from VetCell Therapeutics for dogs and cats:
Q: Tell me about VetCell Therapeutics.
We are a subsidiary of PrimeGen Biotech which is one of the pioneer companies that discovered practical ways to use stem cells to treat people and pets. We believe we can help animals who suffer from medical conditions like arthritis, live a pain-free life without drugs. VCT recognizes that cell-based therapies are becoming more common and effective for pets. It’s our goal to work with veterinarians around the world to make sure companion animals have access to these advanced treatments.
Q: Why are you starting with dogs that have arthritis?
Canine arthritis is an extremely painful disease that unfortunately only gets worse with time if left untreated. Even though stem cell therapies designed to treat the symptoms and potentially reverse damage caused by the disease have been around for more than a decade, the number of suppliers has remained very low and production cost markup has left available therapies very expensive.
At VetCell Therapeutics, we aim to make high-quality stem cell therapies that are readily available to veterinary clinics and affordable for their patients.
Q: Does a dog have to travel to your lab?
No, the entire procedure is done at your local veterinarian’s clinic. We work with your vet every step of the way to give them guidance and even in-person training if it’s needed. We teach them how to extract the tissue and how to deliver the treatment.
There are two cellular therapies VCT is offering for your veterinarian to use to treat canine osteoarthritis. The RenGen OA method removes tissue from your dog’s subcutaneous tissue that is just under the skin with a small surgical procedure. The fat tissue is then shipped to VCT where it is processed into a cellular therapy for joint injection. This stem cell therapy has the potential to restore damaged cartilage and improve joint function.
The second is called EvoluGen OA and it is an advanced platelet-rich plasma therapy. Blood is drawn from your dog and sent to VetCell. It treats arthritis in a dog by delivering high concentrations of platelet cytokines that help to reduce inflammation and promote healing in affected joints.
The type of therapy chosen depends on the degree of arthritis your dog has and their overall health.
Q: What happens in the VetCell lab?
First, we are very proud that our lab is certified as an ISO7 Clean Room. Our operations are in accordance with the FDA’s Current Good Manufacturing Practice Regulations.
When we receive the fat tissue or blood, each is sent to our clean room within our 10,000 square-foot facility so that it can be processed for your dog’s specific arthritic condition. We turn the samples into an injectable cellular therapeutic that is shipped back to your veterinarian within 24-48 hours.
We also have a cryo-bank on hand so cells can be saved for future use.
When the therapy arrives at your veterinarian’s office it is ready to be injected directly into your dog’s arthritic joints.
Q: How does stem cell therapy differ from treatments like injectable Adequan?
Adequan is a pharmaceutical drug that essentially helps lubricate the joints in a dog with arthritis. Like all drug therapies, there can be side effects. Stem cell therapy introduces live cells into your dog’s body so they can potentially regenerate and grow new tissue.
Q: How does stem cell therapy compare in cost to traditional therapies?
We are competitive with many drug treatments, especially those that require a dog to be on them for a long time. And stem cell therapy can be more cost effective and less invasive than the surgical treatments available for dogs with arthritis.
Q: What do you think the future holds for cell-based therapy?
I think we’ll see stem cells treating diseases like pancreatitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, allergic conditions, chronic kidney disease and stomatitis plus increased use for injuries of the tendons and ligaments and bone fractures. We are also working on the ability to use the cells from one donor to help multiple pets, which will eliminate the need for surgical fat extraction in the patient.
Here is a video from Dr. Maki about the future of cell-based treatments.
Would you opt to use stem cell treatment for your dog or cat?
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