The Stem Cell
Stem cells have the unique capacity to generate a range of specialised cell types, so for years researchers have looked for ways to use them to replace damaged or diseased tissues. As long ago as 1961 it was shown that mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) could develop into tendon cells in the lab and by the end of the 1990s the regeneration of new tendon-like tissue had been shown in vivo.
Equine mesenchymal stem cells
In 2005 Hankemeier et al. demonstrated that the implantation of MSCs induced a better quality and stronger repair in rat patella tendon. These earlier results are supported by recent data generated both experimentally and by clinical follow-up which show significantly improved quality and function of equine tendons post-injury (Smith et al. data submitted for publication).
Tendon & Ligament Treatment
Autologous MSCs for use in the treatment are extracted from a sample of the injured horse’s bone marrow which is taken either from the sternum or tuber coxae under standing sedation and local anaesthesia. The sample is then packaged and couriered to the laboratory where the stem cells are extracted and cultured – a process that takes an average of 18 days. The cultured cells are re-suspended in bone marrow supernatant before being returned to the veterinary surgeon for ultrasound directed implantation directly into the lesion. The horse then undergoes a carefully controlled rehabilitation programme which takes approximately one year and encourages a return to full fitness and full work.