Regenerative Therapies: the Slow Move From Horses to Humans

Back in 2005, I noted that horses have enjoyed the benefits of early stem cell therapies since 2002:

In the new treatment, a damaged tendon is rapidly "repopulated" by flexible new tendon tissue, rather than leathery scar tissue that naturally forms over a period of up to 18 months. About 70 per cent of treated horses have returned to racing form - more than double the percentage that would be expected had they received conventional treatment.

As to why the same is not true of injured humans, you'd have to look towards the oppressive medical regulation that has developed over the past decades in most developed countries. Veterinary science continues to provide the shining example of where we could be with even just a little less waste, less socialism and less pointless, self-serving bureaucracy:

In the race to perfect 'regenerative medicine,' stem cell therapy for animals is ahead of treatment for humans because it is not so strictly regulated. It's not experimental - it's here. ... There are no side effects and no problems with rejection, because the patient is also the cell donor. ... I don't see any reason why humans aren't doing it."

Five years later, a few companies are starting to offer autologous stem cell therapies in the US - and they're only able to do it so soon by working their way around the low points in the regulatory landscape. It'll be another five years or longer before therapies that the FDA is overseeing emerge into the light of day - if they do at all. One of these adventurous companies is Regenerative Sciences, focusing on joint disease:

Millions of Americans suffer every year from painful and debilitating orthopedic conditions, such as osteoarthritis of the knee, fractures that won’t heal, and bone degeneration of the hip and other joints, known as osteonecrosis or avascular necrosis. Until now, treatment has focused on pain management and ultimately total joint replacement. Unfortunately, for those under the age of 65, these options are far from optimal.


Our trained staff isolates the mesenchymal stem cells. These cells are then grown using natural growth factors found in your blood. The goal is to achieve much greater numbers of stem cells than you could muster to the injured area.

We live in an age of promise in biotechnology, with the prospect of ever-increasing health and life span ahead of us. The greatest challenges to the promise of modern medicine are posed by the institutional ball and chain we allow to hold back progress.


I have been wondering how it is possible for a horse to get better medical care than I have access too and despite the above explantion I still find it hard to believe. Because even if regulations are tough in some countries, there must be some where it isn't and I haven't been able to find treatment yet for chronic, debilitating tendinosis of the semimembranosis hamstring tendon. I'm waiting to hear back from the place you mentioned. I'm really doubting he will try to help me. My hamstring injury is not one of the really common ones you always read about in the US so I fear the doctor won't want to touch me with a ten foot pole, but all I can do is try and tell him how desperate I am for treatment. This tendon bears all of my weight, plus even if I sit to rest, I'm sitting on it also so this tendon rarely gets a break so that is how tendinosis can be so life altering if it is in a tendon that is so important to walking, standing, sitting, exercising, etc.

Posted by: Jennifer at July 27th, 2008 9:34 AM
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