Stem Cell Therapy – Part II

 Regenerative Medicine for Arthritis: Helping Dogs Help Themselves


James S. Gaynor, DVM, MS, DACVA, DAAPM

Peak Performance Veterinary Group

Colorado Springs, CO USA


The concept of using stem cell therapy as a form of regenerative medicine was born out of a lack of satisfactory therapy for degenerative diseases, such as osteoarthritis. The goal of stem cell therapy is to initiate tissue regeneration, not just healing. In this way, strength, range of motion and performance are enhanced while minimizing scars, pain, and potentially future related disease.

Stem cells are primitive cells which are present in virtually every tissue. They are capable of differentiating into many different tissue types and are self renewing thereby allowing these adult stem cells to treat traumatic and degenerative diseases, including bowed tendons, ligament injuries, and osteoarthritis in horses and dogs.

A key concept is that this type of regenerative medicine utilizes ADULT stem cells. These adult stem cells are derived from depots of fat tissue, making them a readily available source, much easier to collect and much more plentiful than those derived from bone marrow.

In the case of arthritis, stem cells are injected directly into 2-4 affected joints, or intra-articularly and intravenously to induce a more global effect. Once again the regenerative cells can differentiate into many tissue types, induce repair, and stimulate regeneration. 

Currently, over 1800 dogs have been treated for osteoarthritis and orthopedic procedures. Most patients had elbow, hip, or knee problems.  Intra-articular administration of regenerative stem cells significantly decreases pain and improves comfort in the majority of cases. The current indications for regenerative stem cell therapy in dogs includes osteoarthritis and tendon and ligament injuries.   

As more research is conducted, the likelihood of expanding the indications for stem cell therapy increases. Besides the overwhelming scientific data demonstrating the clinical efficacy of regenerative cellular therapy in animal models of osteoarthritis, many additional studies demonstrate success in treating systemic disorders such as stroke, heart attack, muscular dystrophy, and immune-mediated disorders.