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A Medical Miracle – Pet Planet Magazine

A Medical Miracle

By on August 21, 2012

Stem Cell Technology


It’s profound brilliance without a doubt. It’s becoming more apparent than ever before, and it’s reaching extraordinary heights beyond belief. Contemporary adult stem cell innovations are crusading for canines and their battles against bone disorders.

Recently, adult stem cell treatments produced striking benefits for ailing dogs; especially those struggling with arthritis and dysplasia. Although human stem cell practices have yet to plunge towards medical breakthroughs, veterinary professionals are finding its advantages significantly practical for small animals.

Maggie Mae, a beautiful ten year old Australian Shepherd, has a story of her own to share about this exciting practice. She, with the support of her owner, Terry Hays, has recently undergone a stem cell treatment performed by Dr. Jaceck de Haan, with Affiliated Veterinary Specialists (AVS) in Orlando, FL.

AVS is central Florida’s only specialty veterinary hospital, housing state of the art technology and board-certified orthopedic surgeons, internal medicine practitioners, radiologists, oncologists and neurologists. AVS was the first hospital in Florida to have magnetic resonance imaging machines specifically used on pets. The AVS facility is remarkably equipped with some of the finest technology available to man, such as cancer radiation treatment, water therapy, CAT scans, ultrasounds, and so much more. AVS staffs approximately 30 outstanding, specialty veterinarians.

With a fine veterinary team supporting her, on May 2, 2008, Maggie Mae used adult stem cells from her own belly fat to treat the dysplasia in both of her hips as well as her arthritic elbow. Performed in two separate procedures, the belly fat was first taken from Maggie’s stomach and then sent to Vet Stem, one of the nation’s leading stem cell regenerative laboratories, located in California. At Vet Stem, Maggie Mae’s adult stem cells were extracted from her belly fat, then deposited into syringes, and returned to AVS for reinjection of the cells into Maggie Mae’s three problem areas.

“The injections took a total of fifteen minutes and Maggie Mae didn’t need to be anesthetized for the procedure,” said Dr. de Haan, who has performed six other stem cell treatments before Maggie Mae’s.

Since the procedure, Maggie Mae has shown signs of considerable improvement. The procedure gave her sensational relief compared to the more conservative approaches she previously attempted, such as acupuncture, herbs, supplements like Glycoflex, and pain medications such as Deramaxx. Maggie Mae now gallops about, barking happily at the world around her.

Compared to a more aggressive treatment alternative for animals with dysplasia, the recovery and improvement period is significantly less than that of a total hip replacement, which can take at least three to four months for recovery. Stem cell treatments are also a more cost effective option for pet owners instead of total bone replacements. At AVS, the cost is approximately $2500 for a stem cell procedure and up to $5000 or more for a hip replacement on small animals.

So, what do other experts think about this new-age stem cell treatment? When we asked Dr. Derek Fox, a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Surgeons (ACVS) and an orthopedic surgeon at the University of Missouri, he said that once conservative approaches to regenerative medicine were deemed unsuccessful, that stem cell treatments are not considered harmful by any means, and can, in fact, produce terrific results for animals. Unfortunately, like any other donor procedure, stem cell treatment may not fully solve the problem for every animal. However, this is also a truth for total bone replacements.

Dr. Fox, who is also an expert in orthopedic disorders in animals, suggested, “It’s extremely intriguing, but I think there’s a lack of adequate research on stem cell treatment, which is why it’s still so infrequently utilized in human medicine. I do have high hopes that it will continue to show promising results towards veterinary medicine. I don’t think there’s any greater risk of complication with stem cells than there is for any other surgical procedure used to address the problem.”

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), stem cells have remarkable potential to develop into many other types of cells, and can serve as a repair system for the body. Theoretically, stem cells can continue to divide without limits. As stem cell treatments progress, we may begin to see their uses in medicine for more critical human treatments, such as cancers, diabetes, spinal cord and brain injuries, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.

The National Academies, which advises our nation on science, engineering and medicine, created a committee of respectable representatives to focus on the topic of stem cells. They believe stem cell treatments are quite promising for debilitating illnesses, and should not be confused with issues of reproductive cloning.  The National Academies also hopes for the government, as well as all of society, to give much consideration to their advice.

Even the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) supports stem cell research and therapy. The AAMC is a charter member of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research (CMR). The Coalition is comprised of universities, scientific societies, patients’ organizations, and other entities devoted to ensuring that federal funding is available for stem cell research.

While using embryonic stem cells for treatment is still highly controversial, it’s certainly not the same concern for those practicing with adult stem cells, such as in Maggie Mae’s procedure.  At present, President Bush denies financial support from the government towards stem cell research. Nevertheless, after a few more outstanding occurrences, as Maggie Mae’s, this notion may eventually change over time.

Despite lack of governmental support, experts continue to strive for safe experimental practices. In order to perform stem cell procedures, stem cell laboratories require doctors to also have a license and board certification in surgery, and they must complete an extensive certification course through Vet Stem, or the laboratory used to assist with the process. Therefore, stem cell treatments are presumably performed by highly-trained veterinary specialists.

I truly think everything has helped in some ways,” conveyed Terry Hays, “but since the procedure, she’s able to get on the couch, and she couldn’t ever do that before.” For the first time in quite a while, Maggie Mae is able to express excitement through her own body language. In less than two months after the procedure, her activity levels have increased and her spirits have lightened.

You can tell she’s happier and in less pain, but her improvement window is still wide open,” said Hays.

Typically, we see improvements take place within two to four weeks after the procedure. However, we sometimes see continual improvement even months later,” expressed Dr. de Haan.

There are performing stem cell specialists all over the United States, and with a referral from a primary veterinarian, anyone can seek veterinary specialist advice on stem cell treatments for their pet.  Whether your pet is younger or older, doctors believe the results are ultimately worthwhile.“Although Maggie Mae is approximately ten years old, I do believe we may have added another five or more years to her life span. So, yes, the treatment was well worth it,” conveyed Dr. de Haan.

In the company of unconditional love, Maggie Mae and Terry have touched one another in undreamed-of ways.  Maggie Mae, once abandoned in a Florida residence without food, now has a sanctuary in Terry’s loving home. In return, complete with her favorite Santa Moose toy and a wagging tail, Maggie lavishes Terry with devout adoration. She displays clear evidence of her appreciation by the silly smile positioned upon her face. It could be that Maggie realizes she was rescued not only once, but twice. Together, Terry Hays and Maggie Mae make each other’s lives complete.

With the facilitation of new-age medicine, stem cell treatments can contribute to the quality of life, while still allowing for natural functioning of the body. This magnificent treatment has the capability of providing new hope for our world’s future. Throughout history, progression begins with one small, yet remarkable, step like Maggie Mae’s, and eventually strides to create realism in what was once unobtainable to mankind.

Maggie Mae’s story is one of the first successes of stem cell breakthroughs. Like most pet owners, Terry Hays proves that pets are just as precious to us as our own children. Through experience, pet owners like Terry value the fact that pets are the only creatures on earth who love us more than they love themselves. As a selfless being, there isn’t anyone more deserving of a second chance than the pet in our lives.

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