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New Sources of Equine Stem Cells ExploredBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · December 19, 2017

Use of stems cells for managing health issues in horses continues to rise, particularly for musculoskeletal conditions such as tendon and ligament injuries. Finding and processing sufficient healthy stem cells to meet demand has, however, turned out to be a stumbling block. One research team* suggests that stem cells can be successfully harvested from the bone marrow of deceased horses to help living ones in need.

“Until now, veterinarians relied on stem cells harvested from bone marrow, fat, dental pulp, and fetal tissues, either from the patient or donors,” explained Laura Petroski, B.V.M.S., a veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

As described by a German-based research group, stem cells derived from the patient are preferable. Using self-derived stem cells avoids the risk of immunorejection, a condition in which the injured horse perceives the stems cells as foreign and therefore attacks and destroys them.

Three main concerns associated with self-derived, or autologous, stem cell therapy exist:

  1. Stem cells may be altered by either disease status or treatment with pharmaceutical products and therefore be unsuitable for harvesting, processing, and use in the same animal.
  2. The harvesting procedure is not without risk. Complications associated with obtaining bone marrow-derived stem cells include thoracic and cardiac punctures.
  3. Producing autologous stem cells designed for injection can be a time-consuming procedure, frequently taking up to 5 weeks or more.

“These disadvantages might be avoided by the use of stem cells obtained from euthanized horses,” explained Petroski.

To explore this possibility, the researchers collected bone marrow-derived stem cells from both living horses and those that were humanely euthanized for reasons not associated with this study. The researchers found that the stem cells obtained from euthanized horses had similar cell surface markers as stem cells cultured from living horses, making their usefulness a possibility .

“Stem cell therapy is only one of many ways to help horses with musculoskeletal conditions. Nutritional supplementation with quality products that contain glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronic acid, and omega-3 fatty acids also support the health and healing of musculoskeletal tissues,” Petroski noted.

KER offers several products to support the musculoskeletal system such as KER•Flex, with chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine hydrochloride; Synovate HA with high-molecular weight hyaluronic acid; and EO•3, a marine-derived source of both DHA and EPA.

For those horse owners in Australia, choose these research-proven products.

*Schröck, C., C. Eydt, F. Geburek, et al. 2017. Bone marrow-derived multipotent mesenchymal stromal cells from horses after euthanasia. Veterinary Medicine and Science. 3(4):239-251.