Stem Cells to Treat Chronic Laminitis: The Sooner the Better

Researchers are studying whether stem cell therapy could help stabilize chronic laminitis cases.

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For years, the veterinarians and podiatrists at Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital, in Lexington, Ky., have been testing stem cell therapy’s efficacy as an adjunctive treatment for the hoof disease laminitis. Their access to a large stem cell bank combined with a high caseload has created the ideal scenario for studying this cutting-edge treatment.

Most recently, the Rood & Riddle team investigated whether stem cell therapy could help stabilize chronic laminitis cases and during what time period stem cell administration is most effective. Vernon Dryden, DVM, CJF, APF, presented their results at the 2013 International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Nov. 1-3 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) are unique in that they are pluripotent, meaning they can differentiate into multiple types of cells, including those that make up bone and connective tissue. Because previous research has shown that stem cell therapy helps improve the quality of healing in some tendon lesions, veterinarians hope it can also help repair laminar damage (the laminae are the Velcrolike tissues that suspend the coffin bone inside the hoof wall) and stabilize the coffin bone.

In severe chronic laminitis cases, horses experience detachment of the laminar interface resulting in coffin bone displacement and rotation. Over time, affected horses can develop a laminar wedge between the rotated and/or sunken coffin bone and the toe of the hoof wall. This wedge is comprised of poorly organized and irregular laminae that provide little structural integrity to the hoof/coffin bone interface and can be measured using radiographs to determine the “hoof laminar zone” (HLZ). Many veterinarians believe the laminar wedge develops within the first 30 days of laminitis, accompanied by coffin bone displacement

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Alexandra Beckstett, a native of Houston, Texas, is a lifelong horse owner who has shown successfully on the national hunter/jumper circuit and dabbled in hunter breeding. After graduating from Duke University, she joined Blood-Horse Publications as assistant editor of its book division, Eclipse Press, before joining The Horse. She was the managing editor of The Horse for nearly 14 years and is now editorial director of EquiManagement and My New Horse, sister publications of The Horse.

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