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Cutting-Edge Science Could Cut Kidney Disease

By Amy Ettinger

You notice your cat spending a lot of time near his water dish and litter box. He’s lethargic and has lost his appetite. A trip to the veterinarian shows that 75 percent of his kidney function is already lost.

Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is the number one killer of cats in this country. Though the disease can be managed if caught in the early stages, it is often not diagnosed until the late stages, at which time there are few treatment options.

With Morris Animal Foundation funding, researchers at Colorado State University are studying whether cutting-edge stem cell therapy can help cats with late-stage CKD.

“There’s a lot of hype around stem cells right now,” says Dr. Stephen Dow, lead researcher on the project. “Unfortunately, a lot of the claims are unsubstantiated. We hope to show whether the cells make a difference in cats with CKD.”

Dr. Dow and his team are conducting a clinical trial with 20 cats. Based on encouraging preliminary data, they hypothesize that injection of stem cells will significantly improve renal function while reducing some of the side effects of CKD, such as inflammation and fibrosis. Although the study is still in its early stage, the investigators plan to conduct an interim analysis of the data when half of the study participants are enrolled.

To determine whether the treatment is working, the scientists will measure several indicators of kidney function throughout the treatment period. During the first part of the study, two-thirds of the animals will receive stem cells and one-third will receive a placebo. In the second part of the study, the cats that received the placebo will get stem cells.

“This is a new approach,” Dr. Dow says. “We hope to stabilize the kidney function and slow the progression of the disease.”

Dr. Dow says stem cell research is also a promising area for pet owners who are looking for treatment options for companion animals that have suffered organ damage.

“Stem cell therapy is certainly cheaper than a kidney transplant, but it’s not something that everyone can afford,” Dr. Dow says.

The main goal first, though, is to make sure the procedure really works. Hopefully, with Morris Animal Foundation funding, scientists can do just that.

You can help support science like this at


Posted by MAFon July 21, 2012.

Categories: Animal health, Animal studies, Animal welfare


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