Stem cell advances may help injured horses recover faster, live longer

Frank J. Buchman

By A Contributor

Now, there is potential for a revitalized life of once elite performance horse stricken by injury and other disabling conditions.

Adult stem cells, which have the ability to differentiate into almost any type of cell, have offered development of medical treatments for a wide range of illness and incapacitating conditions in humans.

On the ground floor of incorporating the use of adult stem cells in animal treatment, Snyder has worked closely with other veterinarians throughout the Midwest including Dr. Preston Hickman, veterinarian at Wichita Equine & Sports Medicine.

The 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood-Thoroughbred cross mare had already been retired from competitions due to an unrelated debilitating injury, considered permanent by the then owner-trainer.

Although initially owners Judy and Jim Baxter were concerned about the costs, it was decided to attempt stem cell treatment on the fracture to the right forefoot and torn suspensory ligament. Prior to retirement, the mare had been shown in upper level dressage but was forced from competitions due to a torn ligament in the same leg, despite considerable and diverse treatment efforts of several top equine veterinarians and farriers.

“By day 45, following stem cell therapy, Zoe had progressed to the point that we put her back to work under saddle,” Hickman said.

She seemingly retained her earlier championship-quality training prowess.

“I have radiographed her fetlock and am astounded that the fracture line is almost completely resolved, and there is no evidence of pain in the ankle. I am still stunned at this mare’s progress,” Hickman added.

Snyder said therapy with stem cells from the animal being treated is proving to be one of the safest methods of treatment present today.

“The cells are from the animal’s own fat and are recognized by the body’s immune system as ‘self,’ and therefore well tolerated,” he said. “When applied properly, the steam cells cause no damage, and have an amazing property to reduce, or stop inflammation, and initiate healing of the damage naturally.

Most pharmaceutical products cause adverse conditions, often more severe than the ailment.

“With stem cell therapy, we see no adverse reactions, but rather typically improved mental function, reduced anxiety and improved skin condition,” Snyder said.

More than 20 equine cases, ranging from arthritis to several types of fractures and ligament damage, have now been treated with stem cell therapy by Hickman.

“I am amazed that all of these cases have responded, although some more than others. But, indeed everyone has benefited from this technology,” Hickman noted.

Snyder said he and Hickman are currently conducting a research project using stem cells on chronic laminitis, or ‘founder,’ in horses.

“Preliminary results have been extremely encouraging in promoting re-establishment of blood flow to the hoof wall and potentially allowing the hoof to ‘heal,’ rather than continued progression and pain of the classic ‘foundered’ horse,” Snyder said.

Besides horses, Snyder has been successful with stem cell treatment of dogs and other animals.

“We have even treated arthritis in a red kangaroo at Rolling Hills Zoo in Salina. The joint was severely injured for eight months before being treated with stem cells.  

Zoo personnel now report considerable improved movement and comfort in the kangaroo,” Snyder said.

Stem cells are being used around the world in humans and animals to treat and heal arthritis, accelerate fracture healing, repair intervertebral disk damage, reverse and heal lesions of Alzheimer’s disease, stabilize immune diseases and minimize and heal damage from heart attack.

“I truly am astonished at the progress of the ailing horses treated with this new technology. This truly is the greatest modality I have ever had the opportunity to use in my practice,” Hickman contended.

There is effort to conduct studies at Kansas State University on use of adult stem cells for treatment of arthritis in dogs.

“We’re working to get research in high gear within the Kansas Bio Corridor, with more species being involved as the research progresses,” Snyder said.

Zoe was ridden by Bekki Moore in the Kansas Dressage & Eventing Association competition in Hutchinson recently.

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