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Stem Cell Cartilage Regeneration Could Offer Hope for Damaged Joints

With their ability to morph into almost any type of cell in the body, stem cells have the potential to improve quality of life for people with various types of injuries and diseases. Researchers in the University of Guelph’s Department of Biomedical Sciences in the Ontario Veterinary College are studying the use of stem cells to treat damaged cartilage in horses. The treatment could one day be used to help people with joint problems.

“The hope and the promise of regenerative medicine is to try and repair the tissue back to a normal functional state,” says biomedical sciences professor Thomas Koch.

Inspired by studies on canine stem cells at the Ontario Veterinary College, he turned the focus of his PhD studies on horses. “Within the first year we found stem cells within the umbilical cord blood of newborn foals that could be coaxed into becoming the cells of cartilage.”

As a faculty member, Koch has continued his work on equine stem cells for cartilage repair in a number of areas, including finding better ways to treat horses, using the horse as a model for testing new therapies for humans, and enhancing our knowledge of normal cartilage biology.

Horses suffer from the same types of cartilage injuries as humans, making them one of the best research subjects to study cartilage for comparison to human cartilage, he says. In addition, both horses and humans have thick cartilage and large joints, which allow for the use of similar types of instruments to perform surgical procedures.

Read the entire article on the UofG website.