Equine Umbilical Cord Stem Cells Isolated; Suitable for Variety of Uses

Stem cells have been isolated successfully from the equine umbilical cord. Once collected, these cells (referred to as umbilical cord matrix cells) can then be preserved frozen, cultured, and differentiated into a host of cell lines, including bone, cartilage, fat, and those of the nervous system.

Currently, stem cells are obtained from either fat or bone marrow of adult horses and are employed in equine medicine to treat traumatic and degenerative diseases such as bowed tendons, ligament injuries, osteoarthritis, and osteochondral defects (such as osteochondrosis or bone cysts).

"Studies demonstrate that stem cells help tissues regenerate, rather than repair by forming scar tissue," reported Linda Black, DVM, PhD, director of Clinical Development, Vet-Stem, Inc. "Stem cells assist the healing process by decreasing inflammation, providing growth support, and by their ability to develop into other cell types."

Stem cells obtained from extraembryonic (birthing) tissues, including the umbilical cord, have the advantage of being obtained non-invasively and early in the life of the horse. These cells can then be banked for future use. Banking equine umbilical cord stem cells avoids the harvesting and processing time required to isolate stem cells from adult fat or bone marrow.

"This study is the first to characterize equine umbilical cord matrix cells and is an important step toward translating this technology into a therapeutic modality for horses," reported Black.

According to Kathy Mitchell, PhD, Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, University of Kansas, equine umbilical cord-derived stem cells have the potential to be employed to treat a number of diseases or for tissue engineering purposes.

"Additional studies are underway to fully explore the potential uses of umbilical cord matrix cells," Mitchell reported.

The study, "Characterization and differentiation of equine umbilical cord-derived matrix cells" is scheduled to be published in the October edition of Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications. Contributing researchers were Mitchell, Hoynowski, MS; Fry; Gardner; Leming; Tucker, DVM, PhD; and Sand, PhD.

About the Author

Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc

Stacey Oke, MSc, DVM, is a practicing veterinarian and freelance medical writer and editor. She is interested in both large and small animals, as well as complementary and alternative medicine. Since 2005, she's worked as a research consultant for nutritional supplement companies, assisted physicians and veterinarians in publishing research articles and textbooks, and written for a number of educational magazines and websites.

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