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Study Shows how Stem Cell Injections Helped Dogs suffering from Osteoarthritis

Dr. Offer Zeira with dog.Durham, NC. - July 2018

Researchers have developed what appears to be a simple, minimally invasive, effective way to treat osteoarthritis (OA) in dogs that may prove to be of considerable importance in treating humans, too. The study detailing this new approach appears in the latest issue of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM).

OA is the most common form of arthritis in humans and in dogs. It affects millions of people worldwide and almost a quarter of the dog population. OA occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of bones wears down over time, leading to pain, discomfort and limited mobility in both species.

A variety of treatments for the management of OA in dogs have been proposed — from alternative therapies and drugs to physical therapy, surgery, weight control and more — with variable success, but none can be considered the “gold standard” treatment. Recently, new approaches such as the use of cellular therapies, including mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs), have shown some promise. Adipose (fat) tissue is a very useful source of these naturally occurring regenerative cells due to its abundance and easy access.

The study reported on in SCTM evaluated the safety, feasibility and clinical efficacy of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue (MFAT). “We chose MFAT due to its capability to induce vascular stabilization and to modulate inflammation and pain,” said lead investigator Offer Zeira, DVM, Ph.D., from San Michele Veterinary Hospital, Tavazzano con Villavesco, Italy.

One hundred and thirty client-owned dogs with spontaneous OA were treated with autologous MFAT injections from 2014 to 2017 in seven private veterinary hospitals in Italy, Sweden, Israel and the United Kingdom. The cells were harvested from each patient and then injected into a Lipogems® device, which is a disposable product that progressively reduces the size of the adipose tissue clusters while eliminating oily substances and blood residues with pro-inflammatory properties. The cells were then injected back into the dog at the site of the affected joint. To guarantee standard operating procedures, all dogs were operated on by the same surgeon. The entire process for each animal was carried out in one surgical step and the patient was able to go home the same day.

Clinical outcomes were determined using orthopedic examination and owners’ scores for up to six months. In 78 percent of the dogs, improvement in the orthopedic score was registered one month after treatment and continued gradually up to six months when 88 percent of the dogs improved. There was no change seen in 11 percent of the animals and 1 percent worsened. The owners’ scores at six months had 92 percent of the dogs significantly improving, 6 percent improving only slightly and 2 percent worsening. No major adverse effects were recorded.

Collectively, these results demonstrated that MFAT injection in dogs with OA is safe, feasible and beneficial, the researchers concluded.

“The procedure is a simple, time sparing, cost-effective, minimally invasive, one-step procedure and eliminates the need for complex and time-intensive cell culture processing,” Dr. Zeira said. “For at least six months, the results are very satisfactory and promising. The lack of any complications in the dog should be taken into account when considering this treatment in other species, including man.

“The study of spontaneous, naturally occurring OA in dogs is a model that provides a valuable role in developing successful, innovative treatment regimens for translational medicine facilitating the transfer of knowledge from the bench to the bedside,” he added.

“These results are certainly promising because the therapy appears to be safe, feasible and minimally invasive,” said Anthony Atala, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of STEM CELLS Translational Medicine and Director of the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine. “This study underscores the need to now transition this technology to human clinical trials.”

The full article, “Intra-articular administration of autologous micro-fragmented adipose tissue in dogs with spontaneous osteoarthritis: safety, feasibility and clinical outcomes,” can be accessed at


About STEM CELLS Translational Medicine: STEM CELLS Translational Medicine (SCTM), published by AlphaMed Press, is a monthly peer-reviewed publication dedicated to significantly advancing the clinical utilization of stem cell molecular and cellular biology. By bridging stem cell research and clinical trials, SCTM will help move applications of these critical investigations closer to accepted best practices. SCTM is the official journal partner of Regenerative Medicine Foundation.

About AlphaMed Press: Established in 1983, AlphaMed Press with offices in Durham, NC, San Francisco, CA, and Belfast, Northern Ireland, publishes two other internationally renowned peer-reviewed journals: STEM CELLS® (, celebrating its 36th year, is the world's first journal devoted to this fast paced field of research. The Oncologist® (, also a monthly peer-reviewed publication, entering its 23rd year, is devoted to community and hospital-based oncologists and physicians entrusted with cancer patient care. All three journals are premier periodicals with globally recognized editorial boards dedicated to advancing knowledge and education in their focused disciplines.

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About Regenerative Medicine Foundation (RMF): The non-profit Regenerative Medicine Foundation fosters strategic collaborations to accelerate the development of regenerative medicine to improve health and deliver cures. RMF pursues its mission by producing its flagship World Stem Cell Summit, honouring leaders through the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Action Awards, and promoting educational initiatives.