Stem Cell Treatments in Horses

September 14, 2009 (published) | February 21, 2011 (revised)

Over the last several years, stem cells have been advocated in horses for use in arthritic joints as well as injection in damaged tendons and ligaments to aid in healing. There are several companies that have developed methods of harvesting stem cells from all different sources and all of these companies report that their method is the best. The reality is there is little scientific proof concerning the success of stem cells or which of the many different methods is the most effective.

Because of this reality, I am going to share some information about stem cells in general from the International Society for Stem Cell Research. First of all, all the different stem cells are tissue specific, meaning a stem cell from brain tissue can make brain cells but not bone or tendon cells. The society recommends being wary of clinics treating tissues with stem cells that come from another part of the body that is different from the area you are treating. Also, it is unlikely that a stem cell from a specific type tissue would be able to treat multiple different diseases. The best defined stem cell treatments are blood stem cells that have been used to treat diseases of the blood system as well as well as bone, skin, and eye diseases that have been treated with stem cells from these specific organs. You may talk with people who say their horse was treated with stem cells and responded well and this may be the case. However, without controlled scientific studies, it is impossible to know how the tissue might have healed without the stem cell treatment. So although stem cell therapy may be effective in certain conditions, be sure and do your research before spending the money for stem cell treatment in your horse.

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