Gene Therapy, Stem Cells’ Effects on Equine Osteoarthritis

A combination of mesenchymal stem cells and gene therapy reduced osteoarthritis progression in one model.

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The adage says that two heads are better than one. And when it comes to treating equine osteoarthritis, researchers recently showed that two methods—dual-axis gene therapy and mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs)—might also be better than one.

Ashlee Watts, DVM, PhD, Dipl. ACVS, an assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, presented the results of her study on the topic at the 2013 American Association of Equine Practitioners’ Convention, held Dec. 7-11 in Nashville, Tenn.

Osteoarthritis (OA) is a painful, incurable condition primarily characterized by the progressive destruction of articular cartilage. Veterinarians currently have many symptomatic treatment options—which relieve clinical signs, but don’t stop the disease for progressing—such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug therapy. Their disease-modifying treatment options—those that slow, stop, or reverse the degenerative process—for the condition are much more limited, however.

In their recent study, Watts and colleagues tested a combination of dual-axis gene therapy and stem cells injected intra-articularly (directly into the joint) for treating early-stage OA. "Dual axis means that we were utilizing gene therapy to augment stem cells to reduce catabolic (destructive) and increase anabolic (healing) pathways within the joint," she explained

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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