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7047 Great Alpine Rd, Porepunkah

Adipose Stem Cell Therapy

 Alpine Animal Doctors is an Accredited Referral Centre for MediVet Stem Cell Therapy (SCT), a biotechnology procedure that utilises an animal’s own stem cells to mitigate the effects of severe arthritis, joint and tendon injuries, and bone fractures. Our hospital is one of only a few veterinary facilities in Victoria trained and equipped to perform this treatment in-clinic.

SCT has been used to help animals suffering from degenerative osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia, Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries, muscular conditions and to repair fractured bones. Currently Stem Cell Therapy is used primarily to treat degenerative osteoarthritis in dogs and ligament damage in horses.

The treatment is entirely natural, is drug free — apart from an anaesthetic used during the cell harvesting procedure — and there are no side effects. The cells used in stem cell regenerative therapy are your pet’s own adult stem cells so there is no chance of rejection or allergic reactions. Occasionally there may be a mild immune reaction in the injected joint but this will generally subside within a day or two.

The adult stem cells used are not the embryonic stem cells that create controversy and debate in human stem cell research and pet owners need have no ethical or moral concerns about their use.

In most cases a patient should require only a single, one-off treatment. Some animals or some very severe conditions may need further follow-up treatments. While animals treated with Stem Cell Therapy can show substantial improvement the treatment is not guaranteed.

Alpine Animal Doctors has invested in specialised equipment to bring the entire stem cell harvesting, activation and reintroduction processes into the hospital and directly under our control, rather than using external laboratories. With our advanced laboratory facilities we can now perform a stem cell transplant for your pet in just a few hours, entirely in-house.

For more information, and to discover if your arthritic pet is a suitable candidate for Adipose Stem Cell Therapy, or to learn of stem cell treatment options for other diseases and conditions, please contact us at the hospital to discuss the possibilities. Some frequently asked questions are listed below.

Your Stem Cell Therapy questions answered

What is a stem cell?
Embryonic vs Somatic Stem Cells
How does Stem Cell Therapy work?
Why use adipose tissue?
Is the MediVet treatment better than others?
Is Stem Cell Therapy safe?
Is Stem Cell Regenerative Therapy right for my pet?
Is the procedure very expensive?
What happens to my pet during the procedure?
When can I expect to see results?
Can any vet do stem cell treatments?

What is a Stem Cell?
Everything in the body of every organism is made up of various specialised cells, from hearts to skin. But stem cells are a bit special. Think of them as the body’s ‘spare parts department’ — cells that possess the unique ability to divide and differentiate to regenerate into many different types of cells based on where they are needed throughout the body. They’re a ‘blank canvas’ that, given the right conditions, can turn into tissues such as skin, fat, muscle, bone, cartilage, and nerve, amongst others. Some stem cells even possess the ability to replicate into organs such as the heart, liver, pancreas and intestine.

It sounds like magic but, unfortunately, it’s not quite as simple as it appears. If it were we would be able to repair damaged hearts, spinal cords and almost anything else. One day we may be able to do just that but, for the moment, we are constrained by the fact that nature has evolved two different kinds of stem cells, and that they are not quite as amenable to control as we would like.

Embryonic vs Somatic Stem Cells
There are two basic types of stem cells; embryonic and somatic, or adult, stem cells. Embryonic stem cells are found only in the placenta and embryo. These cells, which are called totipotent, have the ability to reproduce into any mature cell type. Potentially, they can grow or regenerate any kind of tissue or organ. Clearly, embryonic stem cells offer the greatest potential in healing, be it for people or animals. But because they can only be harvested from embryos, for many people there are genuinely held moral and ethical concerns in harvesting and using these cells, even in animals.

The use of adult stem cells (ASCs) raises no such dilemmas. These stem cells — called multipotent — are not as versatile as embryonic stem cells, and are not capable of creating a complete organ such as a heart or kidney. They can, however, differentiate into closely related cell lines such as cartilage or bone. There are millions of these adult stem cells found in bone marrow, in adipose tissue (fat), skin, liver, blood vessels, and in neurons. These are the cells used in adipose stem cell therapy, which harvests them, activates them and reintroduces them back into the patient’s body in areas where healing and regeneration is needed.

How does Stem Cell Therapy work?
A patented enzyme is used to extract the adult stem cells found in adipose (fat) tissue. A small sample of fatty tissue is surgically removed from the dog or cat under a general anaesthetic. We can remove fat from the area behind the shoulder, the chest or abdomen/groin areas. Generally we will take tissue from the groin area in dogs, to avoid the coat growing back a different colour. In horses, the adipose tissue is removed by a technique similar to liposuction.

The collected tissue is then processed to harvest cells termed stromal vascular fraction (SVF), which include bone marrow stromal cells, follicular dendritic cells and mesenchymal cells, along with many beneficial proteins that encourage bone formation, liver cell regeneration, nervous system regeneration, wound healing, vascular rebuilding, skin repair and cell re-growth.

The ASCs harvested are then further processed to activate them. When adipose-derived stem cells are removed from fat tissue most of the cells are in a dormant, non-dividing state. To be activated within the patient’s body a repair mechanism cascade must be initiated for the stem cells to circulate through the body and begin differentiation into new tissues.

Once activated, the stem cells are then injected directly into the affected areas, where they go to work regenerating and building healthy new cartilage, tissue or bone, depending on the patient’s condition. They can also be administered via an IV drip.

The process requires specialised equipment and precisely controlled techniques in our hospital laboratory but, for the patient, the treatment is quite simple, little more than a number of injections. A single collection of ASCs can be used to treat up to 5 joints in arthritic patients. The remainder is usually injected intravenously to treat the entire body.

Why use adipose tissue?
Compared to harvesting ASCs from bone marrow, adipose tissue is much easier to obtain in larger volumes if needed, is less painful for the patient, and involves lower risk, whilst yielding many more stem cells compared to bone marrow. There are 50 to 1,000 times more stem cells contained within the fat than in bone marrow. At this concentration, it is no longer necessary to culture the stem cells to acquire the necessary cell numbers to make a healing impact. The procedure to extract fat from the patient is actually much quicker and less invasive than an operation for a spay.

There is also a much shorter delay from the time of surgery to administering treatment. Unlike ASCs collected from bone marrow the ASCs in adipose tissue do not require days of culturing to reach the necessary therapeutic threshold. The entire treatment can be completed in less than a day.

There are no ethical or moral issues involved in harvesting adipose (fat) tissue.

Is the MediVet treatment better than others?
MediVet is a leader in stem cell research and development with a history of developing high quality products and advanced technology.  Alpine Animal Doctors chose the MediVet technology because it offers a number of very important benefits to our clients and patients.

First, by using the adipose (fat) collection method we can be assured that we will harvest sufficient active adult stem cells to provide the best possible chance of a positive outcome for your pet.

The MediVet system also avoids the use of bone marrow, which is much more invasive and painful for your pet than the minor soft tissue surgery used to collect adipose tissue. Not using bone marrow also means we do not have to send the patient’s cells to an external laboratory for processing, which can take days. Processing adipose tissue is not only much faster, it avoids any risk of contamination.

Is Stem Cell Therapy safe?
Yes, absolutely. While there are some risks inherent in any medical procedure, with SCT these are limited to the ‘normal’ risks associated with anaesthesia and any surgical procedure. To date there have been no adverse affects directly linked to the stem cell transplant procedure. Because the adipose tissue is removed from the animal’s own body there are no problems with cell rejection or disease transmission. Apart from the general anaesthetic used for the minor surgery to extract fatty tissue, there are no drugs involved in Stem Cell Therapy.

Is Stem Cell Regenerative Therapy right for my pet?
The treatment has proven effective for some animals suffering from osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia and ligament injuries. Surveys show that around 95 percent of dogs with arthritis experience an improved quality of life shortly after treatment. However, long term or permanent benefits are more difficult to quantify. To decide if the therapy is right for your pet we recommend discussing treatment options with Dr. Bek before making a decision. Potential outcomes, a comprehensive treatment plan and financial costs are all factors to consider. Pets should generally be in good health as shown in a recent physical exam.

Is the procedure very expensive?
Adipose Stem Cell Therapy is a biotechnology procedure so we cannot say it is ‘cheap.’ However, the cost generally compares favourably with the ongoing costs of conventional arthritis control using regular pain medication, joint supplements and special diets.

What happens to my pet during the procedure?
Your pet will first be given a health check to ensure they are suitable candidates for the procedure. On the day of the treatment they will be booked into the hospital for surgery to extract a small amount of fatty tissue. This will be done early in the morning. They will receive a pre-anaesthetic blood test and then a general anaesthetic. We will take up to four radiographs to establish the degree of cartilage damage and to precisely identify the optimum area in which to inject the activated adult stem cells.

We will then surgically excise about two tablespoons of fat, after which your pet will be woken up and returned to the recovery ward to await the next stage in the procedure.

The tissue removed from the patient will then be processed and activated using specialised laboratory techniques. This takes about four hours. The process will be monitored the whole time by trained personnel.

Once the stem cells have been processed and activated we will bring your pet back into the sterile surgical suite, administer a second general anaesthetic and directly inject the activated stem cells into the affected/damaged joints.

That’s it. Within 30 minutes your pet will be ready to go home, and will walk out under their own steam.

When can I expect to see results?
Every animal is different and we cannot guarantee how quickly they might show improvement, or even if improvement will be achieved. However, you should see results quite soon, usually within the first 90 days following treatment. Some patients have shown improvements in as little as a week but while quick results are possible, it may take a little longer, depending on the animal and the severity and nature of the condition treated.

Can any vet do stem cell treatments?
No, the MediVet Stem Cell Therapy can only be carried by Accredited Veterinary Surgeons who have been trained in the technique. The process also requires a fully functional laboratory equipped with a number of specialised devices.

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Alpine Animal Doctors
7047 Great Alpine Road
Porepunkah, VIC 3740
PO Box 393, Bright, VIC 3741
Phone: +61 03 5756 2444
Fax: +61 03 5756 2044