Stem cell trials explore musculoskeletal and neurological abnormalities


The Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine was approved to studied stem cell therapies in dogs and horses

vivienstock /

vivienstock /

The FDA has approved the clinical trials conducted by Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine researchers examining the use of stem cells to treat musculoskeletal and neurological abnormalities in dogs and horses.1,2 Christopher Frye, DVM, DACVSMR, associate professor and section chief of the Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Service, will lead the canine trial and Aimee Colbath, VMD, MS, DACVS-LA, assistant professor in the Section of Large Animal Orthopedic Surgery, will lead the equine trial.

“Our clinical trial aims to track the efficacy and safety of stem cell therapies used to treat a variety of nerve and musculoskeletal conditions,” Frye said in a Cornell news article.1

According to Cornell University, stem cells have the potential to aid in tissue healing, mediate inflammation, and alleviate pain. They may target damaged tissue, alter their surroundings through cell signaling, and interact with the immune system. “The ultimate goal is to help animals recover from injuries more completely, and to reduce discomfort,” Colbath said.1

Participation in these animal cell, tissue, and cell- and tissue-based product studies are always voluntary2 and Frye and Colbath are working closely with patients experiencing common conditions like osteoarthritis, tendinopathy, hip and elbow dysplasia, or nerve pain as potential treatment candidates. Eligible volunteers can also be those with general related nerve, bone, joint, or muscle issues.1

The canine trial will track the extraction of stem cells from the patient’s own fat or bone marrow, and then used to treat muscle, bone, and nerve conditions. Owner, Sharon Roehm, brought in her golden retriever Molly to Cornell University’s Hospital for Animals (CUHA) in Ithaca, New York, and was one of the first dogs to come to CUHA for stem cell and platelet-rich plasma therapy. “Molly is now 8 ½ years old, was diagnosed at 14 months and is still an active, happy golden retriever,” Roehm told Cornell.1 “Without Chris Frye and his fantastic team, I’m not sure that Molly would be able to live the normal, comfortable life that she enjoys.”

Molly comes to CUHA every 4 months and stays once overnight to ensure pain control. She also does rehabilitation therapy twice a week at home.1

Tiffany Amalfi is another owner who brings her 9-year-old mixed breed dog Maximus to CUHA elbow dysplasia and osteoarthritis treatment. “At the beginning of our journey, we treated Max with anti-inflammatory and pain medication, but once his dysplasia started to affect his quality of life, we started platelet-rich plasma,” Amalfi told Cornell. “Max is a runner and we’ve always referred to him as a circus dog. He can jump over 6 feet in the air, and after his stem cell therapy, he goes right back to his zoomies, razing, juking, jumping playful self.”1

For the horse clinical trial, owner Hattie Ruttenberg brought her horse Leo to CUHA after he sustained a soft tissue injury. “After a series of 3 [stem cell and platelet lysate] injections and carefully managed rehab, Leo is again sound and back to work,” Ruttenberg reported to Cornell.1

The researchers from Cornell are hopefully that if the canine clinical trials prove successful, the information and data gained can be used for human medicine. According to the university, humans and dogs share similarities with musculoskeletal diseases.


  1. Greaver Cordova M. FDA approves Cornell stem cell trial for dogs and horses. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. June 11, 2024. Accessed June 13, 2024.
  2. Clinical field studies for animal cells, tissues, and cell- and tissue-based products (ACTPs). FDA. Accessed June 13, 2024.
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