San Rafael dog gets arthritis relief from stem cell treatment

Emma, a snow-white German shepherd, has been plagued with arthritis for two years, limping and sometimes crying out in pain. But an innovative new procedure using her own stem cells has helped, her veterinarian and owner say.

"Her joint mobility has improved. I can move her elbows into a flexed position now," said Kristina Hansson, a veterinarian with San Rafael's Northbay Animal Hospital. Hansson injected Emma's own stem cells into 10 of her joints three months ago in a yet-unproven procedure that cost about $2,000, promoted by MediVet America, a Kentucky company.

"We're very pleased," said Arthur Latno of San Rafael, owner of the 9-year-old, 80-pound dog. "She doesn't limp any more and she doesn't cry."

Latno is not the only dog owner in the United States with such concerns; an estimated 8 million American dogs suffer from the degenerative condition. When acupuncture and other remedies didn't have a lasting effect on Emma's pain, Latno was happy to spend the money in hopes of helping his pet.

He is apparently one of the first Marin pet owners to do so. Though there are some practitioners in Marin who use stem cell therapy, it is not yet widespread, according to Andrew Lie, a veterinarian at the East San Rafael Veterinary Clinic and president of the Marin County Veterinary Medical Association.

Lie himself doesn't use the therapy. "Personally, I think I would wait to see more research and studies come out. I think it's a little early

"This (the stem cell procedure) is incredibly promising, but on the other hand there is a lot of homework that needs to be done to determine whether these are valid therapeutic measures," said John Peroni, an associate professor at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Peroni also chairs the North American Veterinary Regenerative Medicine Association. Peroni himself, along with colleagues at other universities including the University of California at Davis, is engaged in controlled clinical trials involving stem cells and animals. When such trials, peer-reviewed work and long-term studies are published, the effectiveness of the procedures will be easier to determine.

Dogs aren't the only mammals getting stem cell therapy for arthritis. The treatment is being used on humans as well. One example is the Centeno-Schultz Clinic in Broomfield, Colo, which offers a treatment called Regenexx that has received a good deal of media coverage. As with the animal procedure, it involves using a patient's own stem cells.

When the term "stem cells" is used, it brings to mind controversial procedures involving human embryos. In the MediVet procedure, however, the stem cells come from the animal's own body.

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San Rafael dog gets arthritis relief from stem cell treatment

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