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Memphis Dog Gets Innovative Stem Cell Therapy in Stone Mountain

Sam was a champion show dog. Now, he's making history by undergoing stem cell therapy, a procedure that can help relieve the pain of arthritis.

Sam has always been a lucky dog, and soon he will be famous to boot. The 12-year-old border collie, a champion show dog from Memphis, was in nearby Stone Mountain Tuesday, receiving the first—but certainly not the last— same-day stem cell therapy in Georgia, according to the vets who are treating him.

His owner, Pam Hays, and the veterinarians at Loving Touch Animal Center hope the procedure will help reduce the inflammation and pain Sam suffers because of arthritis. Loving Touch is located along the Highway 78 corridor, not too from the Lilburn/Snellville area. 

Dr. Kevin Brantly at Loving Touch has great hopes that stem cell therapy can be used in the future to treat not just arthritis in dogs.

“There’s quite a list of other things that potentially could be helped,” Brantly said, including liver and heart diseases. “But nothing has been proven and tested. Hopefully, it will eventually.”

Sam retired from show business about three years ago after showing the first signs of his disease. Then, Hays said, he started hobbling a lot. He had trouble getting up a few stairs and after a while, he had trouble simply moving, she said.

“He’ll never do agility again. I don’t know whether he’ll be able to jump onto the bed again,” Hays said. “I would like to see him get through the house and not hobble.”

The stem cells used are Sam’s own, taken from a lump of fat. The cells, which have the ability to become any tissue in the body, are processed and then injected into Sam’s arthritic joints. Sam should show improvement within four weeks, Brantly said.

“The stem cells are very effective at interrupting the inflammatory cascade and taking away the pain,” Brantly said. 

Brantly has performed the procedure about three times before, but Tuesday was the first time he was able to harvest the cells and give them back to an animal on the same day. Before, the cells were removed and sent to a lab in California for processing. That took three to five days, and some of the stem cells died and lost their effectiveness before the therapy could take place, Brantly said.

Doing it in at Loving Touch, and in one day, also can significantly reduce the cost of stem cell therapy, Brantly said. It cost $1,500 just to process the cells, he said, and the total was “easily upward of $3,000 for a single treatment. We’re hoping we can get the cost down to under $2,000,” he said.

Whatever the cost, it’s worth it to Hays, a data manager at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

“He’s a great dog. His brain’s intact. His stubbornness is intact,” she said. “I owe it to him.”

Hays, who has six other dogs, said she’s excited to be taking part in the research. The vets at Loving Touch took measurements Tuesday of Sam’s range of movement. They’ll be doing that again at 30-day intervals for the next four months.

“If it helps 25 percent, it’s 25 percent more than I had. So I’m going into this with an open mind,” Hays said.

Amberr Meadows January 27, 2011 at 10:50 PM
The progression in the scientific arena never fails to amaze me. So awesome!

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