"For an orthopedic injury in a horse, you really don't want to leave the animal untreated while you wait the two weeks to
grow its own MSCs," says Nolta. "If allogeneic stem cells could be approved for horses, then one could employ their use in
the treatment of the most serious and catastrophic type of injuries that are seen in athletic horses. The use of these non-self
stem cells is possible because MSCs can shield themselves from the immune system. This is one of the more unique and interesting
qualities of MSCs, and one which we'd like to understand more fully."
The shift toward therapeutic use of allogeneic cells in horses may come soon, but clinical logistics and regulatory requirements
to prove safety need to be worked out first. As Nolta points out, "It could save a lot of horses from undue suffering and
So far, the primary use of regenerative medical treatment in horses is for tendon, ligament, bone and cartilage repair, while
in humans MSCs are used for various conditions (e.g., circulatory, kidney and neurologic disease; immune disorders). Will
there eventually be similar uses for treatment in horses?
"I'd think that anything being studied for use in humans would be applicable in horses, dogs and other animals if they had
similar ailments or afflictions," Nolta says. "Our veterinary collaborators are working on MSCs for the treatment of founder
[laminitis] to increase the blood flow to the foot and help heal tissue within the hoof. Similar use and methods of delivery
are very well established for human peripheral vascular disease and extend to vascular problems in other organs, with heart
attack now being treated in phase III human clinical trials."
Galuppo says everything being done on the veterinary side is conducted on naturally occurring diseases, "which is phenomenal,
not only for the equine, but for small animals, as well. We're expanding our program to organ diseases, such as kidney failure,
liver failure and cardiac degeneration where we know the conditions closely mimic what goes on in people. At UC Davis, we
can do clinical trials in our veterinary patients that directly relate to and provide proof of principal for therapeutic application
of regenerative medicine techniques for human disease."
Additionally, the veterinary and medical schools are developing specific large-animal models for human medical conditions,
and they do the preclinical testing in those animals. Researchers are using horses as well as dogs and sheep. This allows
researchers to move things along from in vitro research at the cellular level to clinically valid in vivo treatment of disease.
"A lot of the things we do, especially on the orthopedic side, really need to be tested in a large-animal situation," says
Galuppo. "Large animals take the forces that are most similar to what is seen in people."
"Our big push initially in this regenerative medicine program was orthopedic disease: bone fracture, tendon and ligament injuries,"
Galuppo says. "Horses are good models for arthritic disease, especially equine athletes, because of their intense workloads."
"Now that we've gotten more of the small-animal clinicians involved, we're applying our research to other organ diseases,
including the kidney, liver, heart and central nervous system," he continues. "We've gotten some real interest from them to
jump on board and rapidly expand our program. When this all comes together, hopefully with these three colleges ,we'll have
the ability to provide optimal preclinical studies, as well as translation from the laboratory to clinical trials, to get
FDA approval for procedures in people and our animal patients."
"The union of these departments to form the Regenerative Medicine Consortium is the best scenario," Galuppo says. "I think
we have a unique situation, and the best colleagues here at UC Davis are putting this all together to help our animal and
human patients benefit from cutting-edge regenerative medicine techniques."
Ed Kane, PhD, is a researcher and consultant in animal nutrition. He is an author and editor on nutrition, physiology and
veterinary medicine with a background in horses, pets and livestock. Kane is based in Seattle.