Recording: Stem cell studies in pets: Toward rapid advancement of stem cell therapies in people

Dr. Andrew HoffmanDVM, DVSc, DACVIM

Dr. Andrew Hoffman
DVM, DVSc, DACVIM

Tufts Faculty Webinar
Recorded on April 10, 2014
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The first successful stem cell therapy was performed in the United States over 50 years ago: a bone marrow transplant between identical twins. We now know that transplanted bone marrow contains stem cells that can be used to regenerate all the circulating immune cells in patients that need them, for example after chemotherapy or radiation treatments for cancer that kill off a patients’ native stem cells.

Since then, it has been recognized that stem cells are responsible for the success of skin and cornea grafts. Remarkably, however, there has been much more limited success of grafting stem cells into internal organs (heart, lung, liver, kidney, brain). Scientific focus has globally shifted from using stem cells as grafts to their use as purveyors of chemical signals that heal damaged tissue i.e. without long-term survival (“engraftment”) in the body. That stem cells might be used like ‘drugs’ has incited both excitement and confusion about how and why they should be regulated by the FDA.

Presently, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are used in this way in over 300 human clinical trials. Exactly what signals are released by stem cells is the subject of our research. We believe the potency of stem cells resides in nanoparticles that are shed specifically by stem cells. Rather than the standard approach of studying stem cells in mice and rats, we are taking the unique approach to study their effects in veterinary patients with disease problems that strongly resemble those of humans, and applying this knowledge toward the advancement of stem cell therapies in animals and humans. Specific examples include canine diseases like human osteoarthritis, multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s disease, sepsis, disk disease, heart diseases, and autoimmune liver and kidney diseases, which appear amenable to stem cell therapies.

Our hypothesis is that the diseases of dogs, cats and horses serve as more realistic models of human disease than laboratory rodents. This strategy has the potential to be more highly predictive outcomes in humans, and therefore offers an enormous economic advantage over the traditional approach of creating disease models in animals.

The challenges and potential rewards of studying stem cells in pets, for the benefit of humans and animals is the subject of this webinar.

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