Photo from WCVM Today
Photo from WCVM Today

Healing horses with stem cells

A team of researchers at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM) is investigating the potential use of stem cells—an exciting new area of veterinary medicine—on wound healing in horses.

"Stem cells in the purest definition are cells that are able to regenerate themselves and differentiate into all cell types," says Dr. Suzanne Mund, a veterinarian who is a graduate student in the WCVM's Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

True stem cells must come from an embryo. Instead, Mund says many researchers opt to use mesenchymal stem cells — a type of stem cell that is found throughout the adult body, particularly in bone marrow and fat. While these cells are more limited in the types of tissue development, they are much easier to collect and could still have an important role in wound healing.

Mund is working with WCVM equine surgeon Dr. Spencer Barber and a team of researchers to better understand how stem cells act during the healing process. Specifically, the researchers are looking at how stem cells influence a horse's inflammatory response, which plays a pivotal role in wound healing.

As Mund explains, researchers believe that stem cells have an anti-inflammatory effect—and abnormal inflammatory processes may lead to abnormal wound healing. That's why it's important for scientists to understand how stem cells may affect healing at different stages since the timing of stem cell administration could influence the healing process.

The long-term goal is to use this understanding of timing to provide a protocol for stem cell use that is fast and accessible to all veterinarians.

See more at WCVM Today.
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