New Human Stem Cell Technology May Help Treat Canine OA

September 8, 2018
Kerry Lengyel

Results of a multicenter study show initial success in dogs with OA using a simple, cost-effective, and minimally invasive stem cell procedure created for people.

Osteoarthritis (OA) affects about 30 million US adults and an estimated 20% or more of the adult canine population. Because of the similarities between human and canine OA, investigators from Italy recently evaluated the safety, feasibility, and clinical outcomes of a stem cell treatment approved for use in human orthopedic procedures in dogs diagnosed with OA.

The treatment employs a device called Lipogems that extracts, processes, and uses a patient’s own fat tissue to provide a potential source of stem cells and growth factors to promote healing. Study findings were published in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine.


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Study Design

In the Lipogems protocol, an animal’s own fat cells are suctioned gently from the flank and processed to screen out unwanted contaminants—creating micro-fragmented adipose tissue (MFAT). For this study, a single, intra-articular injection of MFAT was given to 130 dogs (346 joints) with spontaneous OA. The majority of dogs had grade III OA (47.7%) OA, followed by grade II (30%), grade IV (20.8%), and grade I (1.5%).

Clinical outcomes were determined using orthopedic examination at 2 weeks, 1, 3, and 6 months after treatment, as well as monthly pain assessments by owners for up to 24 months after treatment using the Helsinki chronic pain index.


One month after treatment, 78% of the dogs showed pain reduction and improved function; after 6 months, 88% of the dogs showed improvement. Importantly, 92% of the dogs exhibited considerable or significant improvement in behavior, gait, and function after treatment.

The investigators reported that only 11% of the dogs showed no improvement compared with baseline, and only 1% of the dogs worsened.

Clinical examinations 1 month following treatment and every 3 months thereafter also confirmed there were no local or systemic short‐ or long‐term major adverse effects related to the MFAT treatment. MFAT remained in place to cushion the affected joints for up to 11 months after injection

Future Implications

According to the investigators, intra‐articular injection of autologous MFAT is a safe, feasible, and beneficial option for the treatment of canine OA.

The FDA cleared the Lipogems protocol for general use in orthopedic and arthroscopic surgery in humans in 2016, but its safety and efficacy for treating OA in humans has not yet been evaluated or confirmed by the FDA. These study findings can provide valuable One Health insight into developing successful treatment regimens for both humans and animals.