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Health // Doctor in the House
Rasa Fournier

Amazing Pet Stem Cell Results

Dr. Carole Spangler Vaughn And Dr. Matthew Leara

Where did you receive your schooling and training, and what is your background with stem cells?

Spangler Vaughn: I have a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins in biophysics and I worked for more than 20 years on the human side of health care. I worked for Bristol-Myers Squibb (a global biopharmaceutical company that specializes in discovering, developing and delivering innovative medicines) and Dendreon Corporation (a biotechnology company focused on novel cell-based therapeutics for cancer). A year ago, I started taking my more than 20 years of human health care experience and bringing it to animals. My background is in laboratory science, cells and biologics. I’m with MediVet, and we provide kits and training for stem cell therapy to veterinarians. I give hands-on customer support to vet clinics.

Leara: I am a veterinarian at the Animal Clinic of Honolulu. I graduated medical school in 1998. I’ve been in general practice as a veterinarian for 15 years now, with mainly dogs and cats. Stem cell therapy has been available for several years, but we only started using it once we met Carole. The process and technique she works with are a lot better than the previous ones that were available.

What is stem cell therapy for animals?

Spangler Vaughn: Everybody has stem cells in their bodies. Stem cells are your natural healers; they can become any other kind of cell in your body. We call this regenerative medicine. We take fat, and from the fat we extract stem cells and put those stem cells directly in the areas that are damaged or worn out. In the case of arthritis, the stem cells regenerate cartilage. The beauty about stem cells is they solve the source of the problem and grow back the cartilage so the animals can move again without pain. This is unlike other treatments, like drugs, that only mask symptoms.

Can it be used on any animal?

Spangler Vaughn: Any animal that has fat is a potential candidate, so our company has done a broad range of animals – dogs, cats, horses, zebras, camels. We even treated a bird.

What other diseases does it help with?

Spangler Vaughn: We know it helps with joint problems and injuries. For arthritis, hip dysplasia and soft-tissue injuries, animals treated with MediVet stem cell therapy will get better 95-98 percent of the time. We’ve treated thousands of animals, so we’re pretty comfortable saying that. On the human side, there are a lot of clinical trials going on for many conditions such as incontinence, Parkinson’s, diabetes, replacing skin for burn victims. We’re taking some of that information and trying it on animals. One of the conditions we found success in is end-stage renal disease for cats. We’ve seen some good results with feline stomatitis, as well.

If I bring in my dog, what happens next?

Spangler Vaughn: The treatment can be done in one day. The pet comes in in the morning and goes under general anesthesia. The vet removes two to four tablespoons of fat, which takes about 10 minutes with most dogs. The dog wakes up from the anesthetic. The fat is processed right there in the clinic, which takes about three hours. Then the cells are handed back to the vet, who will inject the cells into the problem joints – hips, knees, elbows. We also do an IV treatment. We take some of the cells and drip them into an IV because, on the human side, we know that stem cells have the ability to find areas of damage.

Leara: One of the dogs that we did the treatment for had bilateral ACL tears in her knees, and she had a lot of arthritis in her back.

She had one ear that stood up and one ear that flopped down. We treated all of her joints and her back and also gave her the IV injection. Well, the owner called and said her ear is standing up now.

Spangler Vaughn: We think it’s because the cartilage was weak in the floppy ear, and the stem cells regenerated more cartilage in the weak area, making it stand up. That’s why we do the IV. Often, someone will say the dog is walking better and its skin condition cleared up, for example – the ear standing up was kind of a cute story. There was a dog on Kauai that couldn’t even stand up to go shishi, and two weeks later she’s able to stand up. It’s pretty exciting.

Getting back to the procedure, after the IV and joint injections, the dog is free to go home. For about 10 days we recommend that the dog keep kind of quiet. We inject stem cells, but we also put back in some natural, really potent anti-inflammatories. In some cases these animals feel really good pretty quickly, but you have to be careful because they need to build up their muscles and do some physical therapy. Swimming is good; walking in water is really good. Just watch them, because they may want to go run a mile, but they need to go slowly to help them rehab.

Leara: Probably the most dramatic result we had was on a little terrier named Hoku Shigemoto. She is only 10 years old, but she has such severe erosive arthritis in her knees and elbows that she had a hard time walking. She didn’t even want to walk to go outside. After just two weeks she was walking much better. With my dog Kanoa, he’s still lame, but he has much more energy. He seems more like he’s 5 years old rather than almost 11 years old. The lameness is still there, but he’s less painful from it and it’s not affecting him as much.

Are any risks involved with the procedure?

Spangler Vaughn: There’s obviously risks associated with putting a dog under anesthetic. As for removing the fat, it’s easier than a spay. It’s fairly noninvasive. We’ve treated thousands of animals and we haven’t seen any negative side effects from stem cell therapy.

Anything you would like to add?

Leara: For anybody who is curious about stem cell therapy – if you think your animal has a condition that could benefit – we do a no-charge consult (734-0255). Come in and schedule an appointment, and we do a thorough exam and go over the animal’s history and talk about stem cells to see if your animal is a good candidate for it.

Spangler Vaughn: Some vets say the mental acuity of the animal improves – they can tell there’s something different in the animal’s attitude and approach. I think a lot of it is, you take away the chronic pain in anybody and they’re going to be happier and lighter in spirit.

Is this same stem cell therapy used on humans?

Spangler Vaughn:Yes, it is the same. Stem cell research on humans is rapidly advancing. Pharmaceutical companies like Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer either are involved in stem cell research now, or they have it in their future plans. Right now, there are almost 2,000 human clinical trials going on in the U.S., looking at many different conditions. For example, several patients have received new windpipes that were grown from stem cells, and research is being done to see if organs can be grown from stem cells. Just last year, the first stem cell therapy was approved in Canada, and I am sure this is the first of many. Also, the Nobel Prize was awarded last fall for stem cell work. Stem cell therapy is where we will see exciting breakthroughs in the future.

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