Dec. 15, 2010
Eli the donkey provides another example from the animal world of the success of adult stem cells (take link to see original news story by DENISE STEFFANUS). Eli was attacked by a stablemate, resulting in a damaged spinal cord. One opinion sought by the veterinarians treating Eli was from Dr. Mike Kistler of Cortez, Colorado, who has years of experience in human spinal trauma. Dr. Kistler noted that In a human, a comparable injury would have been sustained by diving into shallow water, and the majority of those injuries would have a poor prognosis, with paralysis. Kistler gave Eli a poor prognosis, and felt Eli most likely would not survive. Less than two weeks after the injury, Eli was quadriplegic, could not lift his head, had developed pneumonia and was on the verge of death.
Dr. Doug Herthel, D.V.M., a pioneer in the veterinary use of adult stem cells, treated Eli with adult mesenchymal stem cells. Because there was no time to harvest and process Elis own bone marrow adult stem cells, Herthel used donor adult stem cells banked from the bone marrow of a Thoroughbred racehorse. Within 48 hours, Eli improved and had additional adult stem cell treatments.
Mesenchymal stem cells can selectively target injured tissue and promote functional recovery. They can be attracted to damaged tissue by chemical signals released from damaged cells.
A little over two months after the injury, attendants found Eli standing in his stall. According to Herthel:
We couldnt figure out how he got up. So we went back and looked at the [intensive care unit] video, and we saw him get up on his own. It wasnt pretty, but he got up, and thats what counts. After that third treatment, he just got better and better, and his muscle mass came back.
Eli was released to his owner four months after the injury. Herthel said he expects Eli to enjoy a normal existence, barring unanticipated complications later in his life.
While this is only one case, Herthel says he won't hesitate to use the adult stem cell procedure again. Maybe if some politicians and scientists weren't such... donkeys ideologically lusting for embryonic stem cells, people could experience some of the same benefits from adult stem cells.