How Injured Racehorses Might Save Your Knees
Orthopedic stem-cell therapies are moving into human trials.
By Emily Singer
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
A runner with a torn tendon has reason to envy a racehorse with the same affliction: horses have treatment options not available to human patients--most notably, injections of adult stem cells that appear to spur healing in these animals with shorter recovery time than surgical treatments. Now the same stem-cell therapies used routinely in competitive horses and increasingly in dogs are beginning to make their way into human testing.
Tendon repair: These ultrasound images show the tendon in a horse’s front leg. An area of damage (circle in yellow, top) has healed (bottom) after the injection of stem cells derived from the animal’s fat.
Human stem-cell treatments are advancing quickly in many areas: therapies using adult stem cells derived from both fat and bone marrow are currently being tested for a variety of ailments, including Crohn's disease, heart disease, and diabetes. (Bone-marrow-derived stem-cell transplants have been used for decades to treat blood diseases and some cancers.) But when it comes to orthopedic injuries, such as torn tendons, fractures, and degenerating cartilage, veterinary medicine has outpaced human care...