DAVID GRANOVSKY

New hope for old friends

In ALL ARTICLES, VICTORIES & SUCCESS STORIES on February 25, 2011 at 8:11 pm

Your cherished pet is feeling the effects of old age ... it is  suffering and may need to be put down. Enter stem-cell therapy.

A Tauranga company is offering veterinary clinics a process for stem-cell treatment that improves healing and brightens – even lengthens – the lives of dogs, cats and horses.

The groundbreaking treatment is being applied to osteoarthritis, and ligament and tendon injuries affecting racehorses.

Stemvet New Zealand, established in September 2009, is committed to providing veterinarians with the knowledge and products to make stem-cell therapy an everyday treatment.

It also wants to put New Zealand veterinarians at the forefront of developments in regenerative medicine.

“The treatment certainly relieves pain and slows the ageing process,” said Stemvet co-owner Gil Sinclair.

“The degree of improvement varies with each patient. But in most cases there’s dramatic improvement in the animal’s mobility and wellbeing.”

Dr Sinclair, a veterinarian who has four in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) laboratories in New Zealand and Australia, has been involved with animal reproduction for nearly 30 years. He has recently worked with researchers in Sydney on the development of stem-cell extraction technology and its application in veterinary clinics.

His enthusiastic business partner, Kerry Hitchcock, talks about a dog suffering from osteoarthritis that was “a doormat at home”.

The dog had an intravenous dose of stem cells and its condition improved. In a short time it was bouncing around.

Mr Hitchcock said an inquisitive neighbour asked the dog’s owner what had happened to the dog. “The neighbour was amazed in the change to the dog,” said Mr Hitchcock.

Early cases treated so far have been dogs – between 8 and 14 years – severely affected with osteoarthritis, and young racehorses that have suffered tendon injuries or have osteoarthritis.

Fat tissue containing dormant adult stem cells is taken from the rump of horses and from under the skin of dogs, and from other animals behind their ribs.

Each gram of fat can contain anything from 4.5 million to 28 million stem cells. The fat is digested in a water bath at 37C, then spun in a centrifuge, and the stem cells filtered out.

A platelet concentrate – containing natural stem-cell activators – is extracted from a blood sample. The platelet and other solutions are mixed with the “fat-extracted” stem-cell concentrate to activate the stem cells.

The mixture is then exposed to a photobiostimulator which provides extra activation. The whole process takes three and a half hours.

The now active adult stem cells are reintroduced to the same animal, mostly by direct injection into the affected joints or tissues. Some are administered intravenously and find their way through the blood system to the inflamed area.

“We are talking about adult stem cells that can be guided into promoting health,” said Dr Sinclair. “There is a huge concentration of them in the body but they are non-functional. By taking fat out of the animals and extracting the stem cells and activating them we can improve the healing process.”

Stemvet has become the exclusive New Zealand distributor for Australian-based MediVet stem-cell therapy products and equipment, which includes the water bath, centrifuge, photobiostimulator and extraction kit.

The package, including equipment and kit, costs $15,000 and in the past month six veterinary clinics, in Christchurch, Blenheim, Wellington, Tauranga, Hamilton and Auckland, have signed up. Stemvet provides training, free of charge. Pet owners are charged about $2500 for the treatment – cheaper than the $4000 quoted by an overseas competitor.

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