Stem Cells May Uncover Disease Mysteries
By Amy Ettinger
Stem cell therapy is one of the most promising new areas of research in veterinary medicine. Yet in recent years you’ve likely seen stem cell research in the news because of the controversy surrounding use of human embryonic stem cells.
That is one kind of stem cell. But in its role as a leader in animal health, Morris Animal Foundation is investing in veterinary research that focuses on two other types of stem cells, which are taken from an animal’s own tissues. This research could help cure diseases ranging from feline kidney disease to canine liver problems—and it’s thanks to support from animal lovers that we’re able to focus on this cutting-edge area of science.
Adipose tissue–derived stem cells are taken from the bone marrow or fatty tissue of an animal, grown in a culture medium and injected back into the animal to repair damaged tissue or joints. Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) are produced by reprogramming adult somatic cells (which make up all the internal organs, skin, bones, blood and connective tissue) back to an embryonic state, where they share key characteristics with embryonic stem cells. The iPSCs can grow indefinitely in culture medium and have the potential to turn into all the cell types of the body.
Dr. Debbie Guest (pictured above culturing cells in the laboratory), a researcher at Animal Health Trust in the United Kingdom, says iPSCs may help researchers unlock the mystery of many inherited conditions, including those that affect purebred dogs. Scientists can study the cells and use them to test treatments without using any live animals. With Morris Animal Foundation funding, Dr. Guest is working to produce iPSCs using skin tissue taken noninvasively from dogs.
“This is an important tool to aid with drug discovery for conditions that have no specific treatment at the moment,” she says.
Morris Animal Foundation is the biggest nonprofit source of funding for this cutting-edge research.
“Many of the newest stem cell therapies show great potential,” says Dr. David Haworth, president/CEO of Morris Animal Foundation. “We know stem cells work in the lab. But we don’t understand how.”
This lack of knowledge has caused some to question the validity of stem cell therapies. Morris Animal Foundation hopes to provide the framework for determining if and how they work.
“The role Morris Animal Foundation plays is to provide funding for smart people to determine how stem cells work, so that even the skeptics will have data they can point to,” Dr. Haworth says. “Finding that out is not only the key to advancing animal health, but there’s a huge potential for improving human health as well.”
Dr. Haworth believes an exciting series of discoveries will take place within the next 10 years. Without a doubt, Morris Animal Foundation will be at the forefront of those breakthroughs.
We can’t invest in cutting-edge research such as this without support from forward-thinking animal lovers. Please consider a gift today.
Posted by MAFon July 23, 2012. Permalink