Future stem-cell uses
"There are some encouraging aspects to this technology, but definitive proof of efficacy is still lacking," says Fortier.
"There are still gaps in our knowledge, although the technology is developing rapidly."
"There is a client-based use for stem cells," Peroni says. "People have learned we have this treatment modality for the horse
and request it. One of the good things (about stem-cell therapy) is that there really aren't any down sides.
"Still, people need to stop thinking that stem cells are the 'silver bullet' for any tendon and ligament injury. It is still
vitally important that traditional measures be employed, such as rest and rehabilitation, although I think the quality of
the healing may be improved after stem-cell injection."
"We're starting to see more people asking for this therapy, because they've become familiar with it through the media," says
Garcia-Lopez. "For the joints, I'm still very cautious. It just depends on the condition. For instance, for horses with end-stage
arthritis ... obviously I don't think you can just inject stem cells and have a horse recover. You might give it relief for
a short period, but it's not as if you are regenerating cartilage. But for some soft-tissue injuries, for some cysts, we are
definitely more comfortable using it (stem cells) as a viable alternative. ... As an adjunct to other therapies, I think it
is going to be very effective."
"Stem-cell regenerative medicine is on the horizon, so a basic understanding of stem-cell biology is important for surgeons,"
"Although there are several exciting studies suggesting the existence of stem cells in adult tissues and the ability of these
and ES cells to transdifferentiate across tissue lineages, indisputable in vivo data is lacking. Studies need to be carefully
evaluated; biologics advertised as "stem-cell therapies" should be closely scrutinized before clinical application. Still,
the potential benefits of stem-cell transplantation ... are limitless," says Fortier.
"There are still so many questions. Maybe two stem cells are enough in some cases and we don't need 200. Do you start turning
them into tendon tissue before you put them into the horse? I think we'll answer a lot of these questions. Perhaps in 20 years
we can simply call on the resident pool of stem cells and without taking anything out of the body just figure out a way to
call them into action."
Kane is a Seattle author, researcher and consultant in animal nutrition, physiology and veterinary medicine, with a background
in horses, pets and livestock.