Equine Patients Benefit from Regenerative Medicine Laboratory

By Sarah Freeman

Many medical advancements in treating illnesses and injuries in the animal population are derived from technologies in human medicine, and regenerative medicine (RM) is no exception. The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine has a GLP-designated research lab dedicated to regenerative medicine and it is now offering this specialized service to equine patients at its Veterinary Teaching Hospital.

Just as it is in humans, regenerative medicine uses clinical treatments to restore structure and function to tissues and organs that have been damaged by injury or disease.

“The area of RM that the UGA CVM laboratory specializes in is cellular therapies, which utilize healthy donor cells, a patient’s own stem cells or genetically engineered cells as part of a medical treatment,” according to John Peroni, DVM, MS, Dip ACVS. “The main benefit is that regenerative medicine amplifies the natural healing processes and delivers them to where they are needed, when they are needed.”

Cellular therapies that are used in clinical applications involve the injection of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) that are collected from adult tissues such as bone marrow or fat. Currently, efforts are focused on a few different treatments including: 1) platelet rich plasma (PRP) and MSCs to improve healing and recovery of soft tissue injuries in horses, and 2) examining the role of MSCs in the joints of horses as a potential treatment for osteoarthritis through Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein (IRAP) therapy.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP)
Whole blood is composed of red blood cells, white blood cells, plasma and platelets. Platelets are primarily responsible for clotting and are essentially the “first responders” at the site of an injury helping to re-vascularize the area, construct new tissue and stop bleeding. Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) is prepared from a patient’s whole blood and uses centrifugation to greatly increase the concentration of platelets into a small volume of PRP that can then be injected at the site of the injury. When activated, the platelets release healing proteins called growth factors, which have varied roles but collectively accelerate the healing process. In equine patients, PRP offers an alternative to the traditional, lengthy rehabilitation of soft tissue injuries allowing for a more rapid recovery and return to soundness with improved outcome and a decreased rate of re-injury.

Potential Applications of PRP and/or MSCs in horses include:

  • Suspensory ligament desmopathy
  • Superficial and deep flexor tendinopathy
  • Osteochondrosis
  • Osteoarthritis

IRAP Therapy
Another treatment now offered at the UGA VTH is IRAP. Defects in articular cartilage can induce osteoarthritis by causing molecular changes in the synovial fluid, resulting in equine lameness. Through IRAP Therapy, the IRAP protein is extracted from the patient through a special syringe, concentrated over a time period of about 24 hours, then injected back into the diseased joint. These proteins are very specifically targeted to block the harmful effects of interleukin-1, an inflammatory mediator that accelerates the destruction of cartilage.

Questions about the RM program at The University of Georgia can be directed to Dr. John Peroni at 706-542-3223 or by email at [email protected].

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