While the tension about use of stem cells in medical care of humans still exists, there is another area in which it is completely acceptable, if not yet common: in the veterinary care of animals. For animals, use of stem cells carries none of the political and emotional baggage attached to the issues in humans
There are approximately 300 veterinarians in the United States who have the training and expertise to treat animals by utilizing their own stem cells, and utilization of the techniques are growing.
Outlined in a 2008 article from Live Science, the most common procedure is to remove a couple tablespoons of fat from the animals shoulder or abdomen and having a laboratory isolate the stem cells, which are then returned to the veterinarian to use in treating pain and injuries. The most common procedure is to inject the stem cells into the inflamed area. For horses, the process involved extracting the stem cells from bone marrow rather than fatty tissue. These procedures do not use the more controversial types of stem cells (embryonic stem cells) that have been the focus of so much controversy related to human medical care.
A more recent article from the Colorado Springs Gazette discusses the use of stem cell treatment in more detail. The primary beneficiaries of this treatment have been dogs and horses, with use for arthritis and to speed healing from orthopedic injuries. The absence of federal regulations restricting use of stem cells with animals has resulted in significant research and clinical trials. In addition, stem cell treatment to improve animal health has the endorsement of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Treatment is spreading to cats with kidney problems, and there is hope that treatment will someday include brain and neurological disorders.
Research shows that there are very few, if any, side effects from stem cell treatment. Other than a few reported cases of mild inflammation, the procedure appears to be simple and low risk.
The price tag for treatment generally runs from $1,500 to $3,000. Unlike expensive medical treatments for animals with terminal illness, stem cell treatment has the benefit of directly improving quality of life, rather than merely extending it.
Live Science, 2008. http://www.livescience.com/animals/080123-dog-stemcell.html
Colorado Springs Gazette Online, 2010. http://www.gazette.com/articles/pets-110435-pain-lifetime.html#ixzz19pJFkxkY