Research Journal: November 2023

The information, ideas, and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the United States Department of Agriculture.

Two Reviews of Stem Cells for Horses

From Texas A&M University and the Virginia-Maryland Colleges of Veterinary Medicine come two reviews of the use of mesenchymal stem cells for horses with musculoskeletal injury, as well as other inflammatory conditions.

Not to be confused with plasma products that may be helpful to treat some injuries but aren’t living stem cells, the term “stem cells” includes a range of living cell preparations harvested from a species for use in that same species. They are harvested from a donor and given to a recipient, which may be the same individual or a second (ideally tissue-matched) individual. They can be harvested from fat tissue, bone marrow, or umbilical cord blood.

In addition to being able to enhance the immune system, they are anti-inflammatory; and most impressively, they can differentiate into different types of tissue to replace, repair, or rescue damaged cells. They can be fresh or frozen, used as collected or grown first in culture, used as is, or activated to trigger certain functions. All these variables make it difficult to identify treatment protocols that are effective for different types of injury or illness, but they also create the possibility of novel treatments for many conditions.

The paper by Watts, referenced here, discusses the use of stem cells for musculoskeletal injury. They report good evidence for stem cell use in treating tendon and ligament injuries, particularly when used before the accumulation of fibrous scar tissue. Rather than forming scar tissue, stem cells may differentiate…

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Albert Kane

Albert J. Kane, DVM, MPVM, Ph.D.

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