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Adam Gassel has used stem cells to treat almost 40 dogs at his Irvine, Calif., veterinary clinic during the past two years.
"I was pretty skeptical," he said. "I was hoping that dogs would just be more comfortable."
But for about 25 percent of dogs, their owners report they are like puppies again, able to get back to normal activities, he said. Another 25 percent are able to stop taking medicines they were dependent upon. In all, Gassel said, all but 20 percent of the animals show some positive response to the therapy, according to their owners and the requests for pain medicine.
One peer-reviewed study by researchers at Cornell University, published in the American Journal of Veterinary Research and sponsored in part by Vet-Stem, found that tendinitis in horses was improved by injection of the adult stem cells.
Two other studies published in Veterinary Therapeutics found that dogs with osteoarthritis showed improvements in lameness after stem cell injections. Those studies also were sponsored by Vet-Stem and conducted by Vet-Stem researchers and other veterinarians.
Jonathan Slack, director of the University of Minnesota's Stem Cell Research Institute, said adult stem cells from fat can become cartilage in a laboratory cell culture. Conclusive results on whether the stem-cell injection process actually makes new bone cells in animals don't exist, to his knowledge.
"I guess from the dog's point of view," Slack said, "it's good if it does work."
Whatever the scientific merits of the therapies, Lucy's owners say they would do it again for her.
She's had her stem cell treatments through an IV three times, and the Fischmans want to give her a fourth one soon, despite the $3,000-per-procedure cost.
"I like the dog as much as I like my kids," said Dr. Charles Fischman, 59, who is an immunologist. "People will spend more on their dogs than they will on themselves."
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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