A fast and cost-efficient technique for harvesting stem cells may have the potential to revolutionise the way vets treat orthopaedic conditions in horses.

The regenerative therapy, called Lipogems, uses fat tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells from the tail head of the patient, which is prepared using a stable-side kit, meaning the procedure can be carried out immediately.

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“Stem cell cultivation techniques are no longer the preserve of hospitals and laboratories.”

Historically, vets wanting to obtain stem cells would have to harvest fat tissue or bone marrow from the patient and send it to a laboratory for the cells to be cultivated and prepared for injection at another consultation – a process that could take weeks and delay treatment.

In comparison, Lipogems allows the transplanting of lipoaspirate from fat tissue within 20 to 30 minutes of harvesting, said Lipocast Biotech UK, the company responsible for introducing the technique to the veterinary market for the first time.

Quick extraction

Conditions treated to date include lesions of the superficial and deep flexor tendons, suspensory ligament desmitis (proximal, body and branch lesions), check ligament injuries and osteoarthritis affecting distal interphalangeal, fetlock and stifle joints.

Vet Tim Watson, of Waterlane Equine Vets in Gloucestershire, led initial work on the project.

“In the past, people have cultured stem cells from fat tissues, but what this technique offers for the first time is the ability to extract stem cells in a quick, easy and relatively cost-effective way, so you can treat the horse immediately,” Dr Watson said.

‘Nothing comparable’

The technique means stem cell cultivation techniques are no longer the preserve of hospitals and laboratories.

Dr Watson said: “Vets out on the road can do it. Potentially, it could revolutionise the way we treat orthopaedic conditions in horses.

“There is nothing comparable with this technique in the industry.”

  • Read the full story in the 6 March issue of Veterinary Times.
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