Photo Credit: Flickr User Paolo Camera

It’s no secret that stem cells

are incredibly controversial.  However, a new study is giving hope that they may be the new cure to the horrible and often fatal disease laminitis

,which is found in horses.  Laminitis is a vascular disease in which areas of ischemia or hemostasis occur with in lamina in a horse.  The lamina are found in the hoof of a horse and are responsible for holding the coffin bone in  place.  In severe cases of laminitis the coffin bone can begin to rotate, and if it becomes fully rotated the bone will come through the hoof if the laminitis is not stopped.  When this occurs the only option is euthanasia for the horse.  Even in horses who survive laminitis this disease can be career ending and will often leave horses only able to live out their lives in a field instead of as a riding horse.  Laminitis was the cause of death for the great horse Secretariat.

This new study

regarding stem cells and laminitis is being conducted by Scott Morrison DVM of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, this hospital is located in Lexington Kentucky and is often regarded as being one of the best in the country.  According to Dr.Morrison with tradition methods of treating laminitis he had an 18% success rate treating chronic uncompensated laminitis (this means that there was a loose coffin bone), an 88% success rate treating severe coffin bone rotation and sole penetration and a 44% success rate treating severe coffin bone diseases (bone loss).  In all of the three types of laminitis listed above success refers to a horse returning to pasture soundness, not necessarily being sound to be ridden again.  Dr.Morrison began using allogenic stem cells (harvested from umbilical chord blood) in common laminitis cases 14 months ago and has used it in 31 cases so far finding that he had a 65% (13/20) success rate treating chronic uncompensated laminitis, a 100% (3/3) success rate treating severe rotation cases and a 37.5% (3/8) success rate treating severe coffin bone diseases.  Although the last number is slightly down from traditional methods the other two numbers have been drastically increased showing that stem cells may be the way to go for treating laminitis.  This study is still pretty new and long term effects and success are still unknown but thus far the numbers seem to speak for themselves which leaves the question, despite the controversy over stem cells if they can save these horses lives are they worth using?

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