Bone Marrow Stem Cell Therapy Effective in Equine Tendon Study

While not nearly as controversial as research involving embryonic-derived stem cells in human medicine, the veterinary world is certainly divided on the clinical benefits, or lack thereof, of bone marrow-derived stem cell therapy for tendon injuries in horses.

Most recently, Roger Smith, MA, VetMB, PhD, DEO, Dipl. ECVS, MRCVS, a professor of equine orthopedics at the Royal Veterinary College in the United Kingdom, evaluated the effect of bone marrow-derived stem cells on tendon healing.

"As of September of 2007, we have used this technique in 172 racehorses diagnosed with a tendon injury, followed by a 48-week structured rehabilitation program," said Smith.

Based on the 24% re-injury rate following stem cell therapy and rehabilitation compared to the 56% re-injury rate reported following conventional management strategies for tendon injuries, Smith suggested that bone marrow-derived stem cell therapy appears to improve clinical outcomes and might ultimately prove to be a useful technique.

"To definitely prove whether stem cell therapy works, we need large scale, randomized, controlled clinical trials," explained Smith.

Additional research is also need to establish whether an alternate stem cell technique that uses adipose (fat)-derived stem cells is effective for managing tendon injuries. For more on this approach see "The Fat is Phat: Adipose-Derived Stem Cells for Tendon Injuries."  

The study, "Mesenchymal stem cell therapy for equine tendinopathy," is schedule to be published in an upcoming edition of the journal Disability and Rehabilitation. The abstract is currently available on PubMed.

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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