Veterinarians across the country now have a way to improve the lives of their patients by using a tool to combat osteoarthritis. On Thursday, one dog made history and became the first animal in northern Michigan to receive the treatment.
The technique is called adipose derived stem cell therapy and allows doctors to take cells from one part on an animal to help repair another part. The technique has been around for a number of years but leaders say it has only just started to take flight across the country in different clinics.
A more than 10-year-old Labrador Mix from Ellsworth named Moka, had the procedure done at North Country Veterinary. Moka was found abandoned in 2011 and taken in by "With a Little Help From My Friends," an Antrim County pet crisis center. Moka struggles to walk and sit on a daily basis because of her painful arthritis in her hips.
"We take fat cells from a patient, isolate the stem cells which are the body's own healing cells," said Doctor Chris Randall. "We take these and activate them, concentrate them, and re-inject them into the patient's injured or diseased area."
"When we put these cells into those joint capsules, I'm confident we'll see great results within a couple of months and she'll be walking around like she's two or three years younger," said Trey Smith, Director of Lab Services for MediVet America.
The procedure starts with doctors removing a few teaspoons of fat tissue from the patient. Moka had some removed near her shoulder blade. A blood sample is also taken that is later transformed into platelet rich plasma (PRP) and is mixed with the regenerated stem cells.
"So the stem cells are cells that are in most of the body's tissues and they're the body's own healing cells," said Dr. Randall. "They are called stem cells because after they are awakened so to speak, they can become any type of cells that are needed by the body."
When the blood and tissues are removed and mixed up, the fat tissue goes into a water bath set at approximately 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. The blood is placed into a machine where it spins around and separates into two layers of plasma and red blood cells. The plasma is removed and then spun again and separated from the PRP.
Several hours later, Moka's hips were injected with the hundreds of millions of regenerative stem cells. They then travel to the area that needs repaired, and will hopefully heal her arthritis. Any extra stem cells were put into Moka's IV bag.
It will take a few months for Moka's healing process to be complete.
Doctor's say the procedure is very natural because it takes already existing cells, places them in a part of the body where they are needed, and speeds up the process of what the body can already do. It is used on dogs, cats, and horses across the country, and costs about the same that a couple years worth of medications for an animal would.
According to MediVet America, 99-percent of the canines in a study showed improvement in one or more of three categories: pain, lameness, and range of motion.
Leaders say it's used on people outside of the country already, and that it could one day become legal in the U.S..
"Going down the road 15, 20 years, this can kind of be a basis for use in human medicine," said Smith.