Veterinary student investigates equine stem cell therapy

University of Georgia veterinary doctoral student receives AAEP grant for work on regenerative medicine.
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Jul 01, 2012

Lindsey Helms Boone, DVM, a University of Georgia veterinary PhD candidate and surgery resident, received a $5,000 fellowship during the 57th annual American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) convention this past November. The grant will support Boone's endeavors in equine research.

According to the AAEP, Boone's doctoral research involves using equine allogenic bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (BMSCs) given intra-articularly to treat acute and chronic degenerative joint disease in horses. Regenerative therapy is increasingly used for many equine musculoskeletal diseases, but its precise mechanisms of action, the full potential of its application and the potential for deleterious side effects have not been fully investigated. Boone's research aims to answer many of these questions.

Supported in partnership with the AAEP Foundation and the EQUUS Foundation, the $5,000 grant emphasizes the importance of assisting equine researchers in their exploration of horse healthcare topics.

Boone received her bachelor's degree in animal and veterinary sciences in 2004 from Clemson University and her veterinary degree in 2008 from the University of Georgia. She did a one-year large-animal rotating internship at Texas A&M University in 2009 and is completing a combined large-animal surgical residency and doctoral program in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Georgia.

Regenerative therapies

Regenerative therapies are gaining prominence at veterinary schools across the country, including the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (see "Calif. researchers collaborate on animal, human health" in the August 2011 DVM Newsmagazine); the Equine Orthopedic Research Center, Colorado State University; and Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.

And the establishment of the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association has thrust this therapy into the forefront of veterinary medicine. Previous researchers have advocated that "the application of stem cell-based therapies in the horse should be done cautiously, and treatment outcomes (good and bad) should be recorded and reported."1

Equine regenerative medicine has the potential to treat damaging musculoskeletal injuries that lead to limited equine athletic performance, such as tendonitis or desmitis, joint-related pathologies, equine fracture repair and laminitis. The use of stem cell therapy has also shown promise for treating wounds, muscle-related injuries (skeletal and cardiac muscle) and neurologic disease.

Currently, both bone marrow-derived and adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells are favored in equine regenerative medicine because of the ease of tissue acquisition for cell extraction. Despite the therapeutic potential of these stem cells, there's little objective evidence supporting their benefit to tissue repair, necessitating the need for further research into the optimal cell source and proper treatment regimen (i.e., timing, dose, dosing frequency and route of administration), as well as efficacy and safety of the procedures.