Stem Cell Approach Ineffective for SDFT Injuries (AAEP 2012)

Researchers found no significant improvement in SDFT injuries treated with mesenchymal stem cells.

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Musculoskeletal injuries are an all-too common cause of lameness in horses. Thanks to the advent of biologic therapies, including stem cells, tendon injuries aren’t the “death sentence” they once were. Despite the positive results associated with stem cells in equine tendon injuries, however, the “best” way to obtain and use stem cells remains unclear.

In the spirit of evidence-based medicine, one group of researchers put a specific type of stem cell, called “mesenchymal stem cells” head-to-head with a simple “bone marrow supernatant” (a type of bone marrow extract that contains a number of cell types, not just stem cells) to treat superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) injuries.

Injury to the SDFT is common in athletic horses, and often refractory to treatment. Strains of the superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) account for up to 46% of limb injuries in racing Thoroughbreds and were reported to be the most important reason for retirement of racehorses from racing in Hong Kong. These SDFT strains are often career-threatening events because recovery is slow and recurrence is high. In spite of treatment with long-term rest with or without supportive medical or surgical therapy, return to exercise is associated with a re-injury rate of more than 50%, which veterinarians believe is because the replacement of damaged tendon tissue with scar tissue compromises tendon biomechanical function.

“Implantation of mesenchymal stem cells has become a very popular treatment for tendon and ligament injuries in horses in recent years,” explained Michael Schramme, DrMedVet, CertEO, PhD, Dipl. ECVS/ACVS from the National Veterinary School Of Lyon in Marcy L’Etoile, France. “One of the most commonly used stem cell products in both the U.S. and Europe uses the supernatant of the bone marrow aspirate from which the stem cells are cultured to re-suspend the cells prior to injection

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Written by:

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she’s worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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