ACell Therapy for Injuries; Powder Form Again Available

Tissue-engineered products such as extracellular matrix (a graft material that can be implanted at the site of damaged tissue) are being used by a growing number of equine veterinarians to stimulate swifter and better healing for tendon and ligament injuries.

One commercially available product, ACell Vet Powder (derived from urinary pig bladder matrix), recently resumed production after two years on hold due to a patent issue.

Equine Center

ACell was one of the treatments veterinarians used on the Saddlebred horses attacked near Lexington, Ky., in June 2003. For more information see article 4539.  

The ACell product comes in sheet and powdered form. When applied to the injured site, it attracts the body's own progenitor cells, which have the potential to diversify into site specific tissues to repair the injury.

Cooper Williams, VMD, of Equine Veterinary Services in Hampstead, Md., has been using the powder ever since the product first became available more than six years ago.

"Tissue engineering is a new field which includes a gene based approach (stem cells), purified growth factor and this third approach using the extracellular matrix or scaffold that surrounds the cells," Williams explained. "By using this matrix, you are putting a mini-ecosystem directly into the wound, providing everything it needs for speedy healing with minimal or no scar tissue."

The animal's own tissues are stimulated to regenerate and become what they are supposed to be. Thus, you are getting the benefit of stem cell treatment without having to put the stem cells in, Williams said.

"The ACell powder can be diluted in saline to inject into tendon and ligament injuries. This is the form I am most familiar with because I was involved in the research for it," Williams said. He and several other veterinarians across the U.S. did a study on tendons and ligaments treated with the powder and found nothing but positive results.

"This is the first really exciting thing I've found for treating tendon and ligament injuries," he said. It shortens recovery time, even in severely infected wounds, and horses regain athletic soundness. This gives hope for horses with challenging injuries, since many of them are able to resume their racing or performance careers.

About the Author

Heather Smith Thomas

Heather Smith Thomas ranches with her husband near Salmon, Idaho, raising cattle and a few horses. She has a B.A. in English and history from University of Puget Sound (1966). She has raised and trained horses for 50 years, and has been writing freelance articles and books nearly that long, publishing 20 books and more than 9,000 articles for horse and livestock publications. Some of her books include Understanding Equine Hoof Care, The Horse Conformation Handbook, Care and Management of Horses, Storey's Guide to Raising Horses and Storey's Guide to Training Horses. Besides having her own blog,, she writes a biweekly blog at that comes out on Tuesdays.

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