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Stem Cell Therapy for Animals in Headlines After 9/11 Search Dog Undergoes Treatment

On March 19, Red underwent stem cell regenerative therapy at Burke Animal Clinic in Burke, Virginia (US). The stem cells, taken from Red's own fat cells and processed in Burke's lab, were then administered intravenously into the blood stream and also injected along Red's back into the affected joints. MediVet America donated the stem cell processing supplies while Dr. John Herrity and the Burke staff donated their services.

The Burke Clinic has treated 28 dogs, including Herrity's own, using stem cells. Of those, Dr. Herrity told CNN News, "about 75 to 80 percent have done very well." Red's days on the job are over, but in two or three months she should be enjoying her retirement with much less pain and much more mobility, Dr. Herrity predicted.

Stem cell therapy is most effective for animals suffering from osteoarthritis, hip dysplasia and ligament injuries. In addition to dogs, it is also used on cats and other small animals as well as horses.

MediVet America, based in Nicholasville, Kentucky (US), is a division of MediVet, an animal health company headquartered in Sydney, Australia. It and Vet-Stem Regenerative Veterinary Medicine, based in San Diego, California (US), are major competitors in the use of adipose tissue as a source for stem cells in treating animals. Both companies say thousands of animals have been treated using their procedure, and each says its method is the best.

Vet-Stem pioneered the technology in 2003, but while a veterinarian must collect cells from the patient animal and send them to Vet-Stem for processing, MediVet's technology enables the vet to process the cells in his or her own clinic. This allows the procedure to be completed in a day.

Americans spent an estimated US $50.8 billion in 2011 on their companion animals, according to the American Pet Products Association, up from US $28.5 billion in 2001. MediVet's initial stem cell treatment costs about US $1,800 for small animals and US $2,400 for horses. Vet Stem's initial treatment costs US $2,000 to $3,000.

In both cases, if additional treatments will be needed the vet can collect additional cells during the initial procedure and then bank them, reducing the costs for any future procedures to a few hundred dollars (US) for each.

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