Bright Future for Stem Cell Therapy

While stem cell therapy for human application remains tied up with red tape by the FDA, your pooch is free to experience this modern day medical miracle. Employing stem cells to repair or replace damaged organs or tissues has birthed an exciting new branch of medicine known as regenerative medicine. This field also holds the great promise of regenerating failing organs using the patient’s own stem cells, thus eliminating the problem of finding suitable donors and organ transplant rejection.

It’s not exactly new science, since the first major breakthrough came in 2006 when scientists discovered how to “reprogram” an adult cell to behave like an embryonic stem cell. Prior to this, stem cell research had been constrained by critics debating ethical and legal issues surrounding the use of human embryos. During that debate, I bemoaned the critics who remained firmly against the use of discarded umbilical cords of newborns (also considered to be embryonic tissue), stifling this promising frontier of medical research in the U.S. Fortunately, maverick scientists from around the globe pushed this door of opportunity wide open.

Advances in cell technology brought forth induced pluripotent cells (iPS). Like turning back the hands on a clock, mature adult cells could be returned to a primitive state of function – that of a developing embryo when cells are differentiating into specific tissue types. Pluripotent is a funny word that essentially means “able to do many things.” A fitting description for these mighty stem cells that are harvested from various tissues like skin, bone marrow, fat, and blood – then programed to heal other parts of the body.

For the last five years, fat-derived stem cell transplants – pioneered by a San Diego-based company called Vet-Stem ( – has revolutionized the treatment of arthritis as well as tendon and ligament injuries in horses and dogs. The transplant begins by removing several grams of fat from the dog’s shoulder or abdomen area which is shipped to Vet-Stem. Their lab isolates the regenerative stem cells to be transplanted where needed. The most common canine application has been to repair diseased hip and other joints – improving mobility and reducing pain in older dogs.

The average cost of a stem cell transplant is around $3,000. Some pet insurance companies, like my favorite Pet Plan, will reimburse for this therapy. Also, you will need to locate a trained and certified veterinarian that can perform the procedure. In addition to offering a valid alternative to invasive surgery or the need for pain killers, other benefits include quick action and unlimited potential. The rebuilding of tissues occurs within thirty to sixty days. Though currently approved to treat osteoarthritis and other joint-related issues, the application of stem cell therapy to treat liver and kidney disease as well as other degenerative conditions holds real promise.

Regenerative medicine is paving the road with new hope to restore health – a vast improvement over what pharmaceuticals can accomplish. It’s already happening in countries like Costa Rica, where progressive free-thinking doctors are not deterred by overzealous regulation that keeps informed patients from getting the care they want and sometimes desperately need. People with crippling arthritis, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis that failed to improve with the standard of care in the U.S. can opt for this treatment at the Stem Cell Institute:

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