Stem cell treatment: Controversial for humans, but not for pets

Stem cell treatment: Controversial for humans, but not for pets

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Stem cell research and therapy on humans has traveled a long and often politically troubled path.

Not so for pets, where stem cell treatment has been used for nearly 10 years and now it is so routine, and so successful, it can be done in a day.

Ava is a 90 pound, 2-year-old Akita, who is about to undergo stem cell surgery. A little IV, a little anesthesia and Ava is out.

"It is used for arthritis mostly," said Dr. Velvet Edwards.

Ava is just beginning her day at Pecan Grove Veterinary Hospital in Tempe. Dr. Edwards oversees the stem cell procedure.

"Stem cells are healing cells, so they seek out area of injury damage or destruction," explained Edwards. "They accelerate healing and help the animal, the patient, the pet just use their own natural abilities to get better."

Veterinary stem cells are harvested from the animal's own fat cells. They are separated and processed by machinery right inside the vet's office and then injected back into the dog's trouble spots.

Thanks to new technology developed by Meti Vet, the process is completed in just a day.

"The pet comes in the morning, it's anesthetized and I collect about two to four grams of fat usually behind the shoulder blade," said Edwards. "Then I hand that fat over to my technicians to run it through a series of steps.. basically to dissolve the fat and get down to a little stem cell pellet... Then we take that pellet and we reconstitute it and make it injectable. I will put it back into the animal's body wherever I need it later that day."

In just one day, Ava has her own stem cells harvested, and injected back into her hip, where she has severe dysplasia.

A day for the procedure, but about a month to see the first results.

"We can see changes and improvement over a 30 to 90 day period and then you are pretty much stable," said Edwards.

"This is Lucy she was rescued by my niece several years ago," said Diane Watkins, who brought the dog in for a 30-day checkup.

And Lucy is already doing better.

"She loved to walk and all of a sudden one day she went down and I was very concerned," said Diane.

Her improvement has amazed everyone. 12-year-old Lucy is off the pain pills -- and back on her feet -- taking a walk every day.

"Her improvement ... she walks and the speed at which she walks," said Diane.

"Murphy is an Irish Wolfhound and he was rescued from the pound," said Vicki Bowman.

And Murphy, who is a rather large dog, lives in Paradise Valley with his owner Vicki, along with friends Misty and Missa.

"He had fractured his pelvis and also torn his ACL," said Vicki.

But oddly enough, a trip to Home Depot helped save this dog's life.

"We got a brace made for him and we were walking around Home Depot and someone asked me if it was a football injury. I said no and I explained he had torn his ACL and he said I just saw a special on that.. there is stem cell therapy for dogs," said Vicki.

And if Bowman hadn't been tipped off about stem cell therapy -- this story wouldn't have a happy ending.

His whole back end was gone. We had no choice. It was either that or put him down and he's our family," she said.

Instead, Murphy had the stem cell procedure at Pecan Grove about four months ago and look at him now.

"I was just amazed.. I was really amazed," said Vicki.

Meantime, Ava is very happy to see her owner -- the painful hips forgotten for now. And hopefully someday soon. Ava's very own stem cells will help her live a long and happy life.

"I'm hoping more and more veterinarians will do it because its a great option," said Edwards.

The one-day procedure costs about $2,000 dollars

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