Using your own cells to help cure ailments sounds like a no-brainer solution. But stem cell therapy isn't often practiced in the U.S. on people. Some people hope that will change now that the same procedure is being used on pets in Alabama for the first time.
Arthritis has taken the spring out of Solomon's step.
"The struggles to get up and down the steps, can't get onto the coach anymore," said Dr. Chris Lothrop, Solomon's owner and a vet at Birmingham Veterinary Internal Medicine.
Solomon's also in pain. That's why Dr. Lothrop put his ten year old lab mix and his 15 year old hound, Meg, under the knife to perform the first animal stem cell therapy procedure in Alabama.
"I hope it works well," he said.
The procedure is actually not as evasive as it sounds. Blood is drawn, fat is removed and broken down, so plasma from the blood and stem cells from the fat can be separated and mixed together. It is then injected back into dogs near the inflamed joints and through IV.
Dr. Lothrop says stem cell therapy provides a treatment option for animals, like his dogs, that are typically too old for traditional methods.
"You're harnessing the body's own cells and letting them do their own work instead of drugs, so they aren't going to be rejected," he said.
The company behind the technology, MediVet America, has a sister company overseas using the same procedure on people.
Jason Richardson of MediVet believes success with pets could change how people in the U.S. view it.
"There's absolutely no doubt, not just stem cell therapy but regeneration medicine as well. We are just in infancy. There's so much more we have to learn. But this is not going anywhere. There's just too much promise, too much hope," said Richardson.
There's high hopes for using stem cell therapy to treat other inflammations. But until then, there's high hopes for Solomon.
"He can chase the frisbee like he used to. He can't get to the frisbee anymore," said Lothrop of what he hopes Solomon can do in a few months.
It could take up to two months for the therapy to help the dogs move better.
The procedure costs about 18 hundred dollars. Right now, Birmingham Veterinary Internal Medicine is the only clinic offering it for dogs and cats.
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