HC Animal Clinic makes history

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

When researchers in Australia were developing what would become adipose stem cell therapy, they tested the procedure on goats.

And since introducing the procedure to the world, it’s been used to repair tissue damage in a wide variety of animals: cats, dogs, horses, even camels and a parrot.

Earlier this year, Dr. Clark Slone and the Henry County Animal Clinic used the procedure to treat the arthritic knees of Mongo the dog — who now gets along better than he has in years.

But until last week, despite initially being tested on goats, the procedure had never been done in clinic on a goat anywhere in the world.

Slone made history last week, as he harvested adipose fat from a 325-pound pet goat named Cinnamon, who had a torn ACL.

Cinnamon, oblivious to the history being made, recuperated from the harvesting procedure with pats and scratches from the clinic staff, as well as breeder Alvin Tingle and farm hand Charles “Shorty” Dixon.

Jeff Hagerman, a representative from MediVet, the company who is marketing the procedure in the United States, said the stem cell procedure “has been huge” in the equine industry, and is gaining in popularity in small animal treatment.

During Mongo’s treatment in April, Slone harvested the fat, and it was transported to MediVet’s Lexington lab, where MediVet put the fat through a special procedure that would isolate and activate the adult stem cells. The resulting concoction was transported back to Henry County for injection, the same day, into Mongo’s aging knees.

But last week, MediVet conducted the entire procedure on-site.

While Slone knelt on the clinic floor — he was concerned about putting the massive goat on a table for fear that it might fall and sustain serious injuries —  stitching up the eight-inch cut through which he had pulled several grams of fat, MediVet technicians set to work mincing the fat, and putting it through their patented procedure.
Cinnamon, it turned out, had what Brenda Timperman labeled “luscious” fat, that was incredibly easy to work with.

Just a few hours later, Slone would inject a portion of the resulting stem cells back into Cinnamon’s ACL.
Timperman said that while getting the cells injected into just the right spot is good, it’s not necessarily critical.

The stem cells, she said, rush to whatever site is inflamed, no matter how far away it is from the injection site.

Though Slone had several clients express interest in the procedure after Mongo’s story was published, few pet owners can afford the treatment — which can run a couple of thousand dollars.

But the goat’s owners didn’t flinch at the price-tag, he said.

MediVet’s procedure does not involve the controversial embryonic stem-cells. Instead, the procedure utilizes adult stem cells that already exist in the body, and are most readily found in adipose fat, or body fat.

According to the company’s website, stem cells “are the body’s repair cells,” with the ability to divide and differentiate into a variety of cell types based simply on where they’re needed.

Once harvested — a procedure completed under general anesthesia — the fat is processed to remove the stem cells, which are “activated” using a low-level LED light. Then, the pet is sedated, and the cells, often by the tens- and hundreds-of-millions, are administered to the affected joints or into the bloodstream via injections or IVs.
The harvesting procedure is minimally invasive — a relatively small incision is all that’s required to harvest the fat, generally taken from the abdomen. And just one gram of body fat, or about a teaspoon, has millions of adult stem cells.

According to MediVet, improvement can be seen within 90 days after treatment, though some pet owners have reported seeing a difference in their pet in less than a week.