Stem cell research proves effective for equine osteoarthritis

GUELPH – Two studies led by Dr. Judith Koenig and her team at the Ontario Veterinary College have shown equine pooled cryopreserved umbilical cord blood, (eCB) MSC, to be safe and effective in treating joint pain and inflammation. 

Both studies received funding from Equine Guelph.

In the first study, the stem cells harvested from multiple donors of equine umbilical cord blood (eCB) MSC (kindly provided by eQcell), were compared to saline injections in research horses. 

“This type of cells is much more practical if you have a cell bank,” Koenig said. 

“You can treat more horses with it and it’s off the shelf.” 

With no systemic reactions, the green light was given for the second study to test stem cell therapy in horses with lameness due to fetlock Osteo-Arthritis.

Effectiveness of treatment in the second study was conducted by a lameness evaluator that was blinded to whether the horses received stem cell treatment or the saline placebo. 

“Being consistent in creating the same size chip surgically in the horses prior to treatment and exercise was a challenge,” said Koenig. 

The four- month study necessitated considerable manpower, with six standardbreds receiving equal daily exercise on treadmills following up with MRI’s.

MRI’s, xrays, ultrasounds and weekly lameness evaluations revealed signs of osteoarthritis improved in the group treated with (eCB) MSC’s. 

After six weeks of treatment, the arthroscopic score was also significantly lower in the MSC group compared to the control group.

Another trial with six horses is planned for spring 2023. 

The initial findings are very exciting for the future possibilities of treating equine Osteo-Arthritis with stem cell therapy.

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Jackie Bellamy Zions