Stem cell therapy — the application of regenerative medicine — is growing rapidly. These biomedical approaches to clinical therapy are involving the use of stem cells to repair, replace, or regenerate cells, tissues and organs. Notable examples of overt success of regenerative medicine in human medicine are bone marrow transplantation, regeneration of skin and regeneration of the cornea.
In human medicine, the success of these approaches is based on a robust preclinical rationale and sound scientific evidence of efficacy in preclinical models.
In veterinary medicine, there is promise in the field of stem cell therapy, but there’s a dire need for rigorous scientific studies to establish efficacy for this potentially exciting new avenue of treatment. While the use of as yet unproven stem cell therapies is widespread, with anecdotes of successful outcomes in horses, dogs and cats, there’s a lack of evidence from the laboratory that can be translated to the clinic.
On the one hand, we’re hearing about “miracle” success stories that tout the benefits of stem cell therapy in the clinic. On the other hand, anecdotes are not the same as clinical evidence.
Many veterinary professionals feel that introduction to the clinic should be based on results of clinical trials that have rigor (i.e., prospective, controlled, double-blinded, randomized clinical trials with appropriate outcome assessments).
In the meantime, until science catches up with the resourceful marketing and overt optimism associated with stem cell therapy in veterinary medicine, animal owners are encouraged to have their veterinarians look at the available scientific evidence before making a decision to pursue stem cell therapy in their animals… particularly because these therapies are very expensive for animal owners (thousands of dollars).
So the issue is —
Where’s the evidence… and where do our peers stand on this matter?
To help you explore this issue from many sides, we’ve gathered a number of resources from the veterinary and human medical community:
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