OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) A 12-year-old yellow Labrador retriever named Jake is recovering as his family waits to see if a stem cell injection will regenerate his limbs and help him romp again without pain.
Jake underwent surgery Tuesday at the Stanley Veterinary Clinic in Overland Park, where fat was removed from his body then injected into his joints.
“It’s amazing,” said veterinarian Les E. Pelfrey, who conducted the procedure. “A few weeks later, these guys are running up and down.”
Supporters say the procedure will give Jake a better quality of life. Critics contend the procedure has not been proven to have any long-term benefits and is expensive, at $1,800 or more per treatment, The Kansas City Star reported.
James L. Cook, a professor of orthopedics at the University of Missouri’s College of Veterinary Medicine, said stems cells have been shown to help rejuvenate damaged tendons and other problems in horses.
“But in the joints for dogs with arthritis? No way,” Cook said. “I would never recommend anyone get this done.”
Cook acknowledged some studies have found stem cells reduced pain in arthritic canine joints, compared with dogs not injected with stems cells. But he said no studies have convincingly shown that stems cells are any better at helping dogs than the current, less expensive standard of care. That typically involves weight loss, pain medications and, when necessary, injections of hyaluronic acid.
Those injections, given a couple of times a year, cost less than $100 each.
And no one knows how long any improvement from stem cells will last, although some vets say benefits last a year or more.
Jake’s owner, Elizabeth LeBlanc, said she knows that the procedure is not a cure.
“It will be worth it, even if I can give him one more great summer,” she said.