Stem cell therapy is a regenerative approach that has gained much press recently as a potential method for treating equine injuries. While scientific studies on its efficacy are scarce, Scott Morrison, DVM, of Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital’s podiatry unit, in Lexington, Ky., and other practitioners are using various stem cell approaches in their practice and recording results. Morrison described his success with umbilical cord-derived stem cells in nonresponsive chronic laminitis cases at the 6th International Equine Conference on Laminitis and Diseases of the Foot, held Oct. 28-31 in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Using traditional treatment methods, Morrison has previously had an 18% success rate (e.g., a return to pasture soundness) treating chronic, uncompensated (unstable coffin bone, or "sinker") laminitis cases; 88% success treating horses suffering from severe coffin bone rotation with sole penetration; and 44% success treating severe coffin bone disease (bone loss) cases. With the hope that stem cells could help promote better-quality tissue growth in the diseased foot, Morrison recently examined whether adding stem cell therapy to routine laminitis treatment (e.g., foot casts, deep flexor tenotomy, hoof wall resection, anti-inflammatory therapy, etc.) could improve success rates.

Morrison relayed that he has used allogenic (from umbilical cord blood) stem cell therapy in 31 cases–three with severe rotation of the coffin bone within the hoof capsule, and the rest "sinkers." He said he chose to use allogenic cells because it’s crucial to begin treatment on these cases as soon as possible–veterinarians typically don’t have time to collect and harvest the horse’s own cells (which takes four to six weeks).

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