Groundbreaking treatment for cats could also help humans
A 14-year-old cat with kidney disease may get an extra life.
Sabrina, a black domestic longhair with yellow eyes, today will get the first of a series of stem-cell therapies that could reverse her renal failure.
Not only could the treatments extend Sabrina’s life by several more years, they could eliminate the need for the daily fluid injections and special foods that she has to have now, according to her owner, Penelope Jean of Folly Beach.
“Most people who meet her think she’s a kitten,” Jean said. “This could give her another four years of life or more.”
Then there’s the bigger picture. Sabrina is part of a study that could lead to better treatment for both animals and humans. A couple of similar studies have been done elsewhere, but this is the first of its kind in Charleston, according to Ruth Roberts, the veterinarian at Sun Dog Cat Moon on Johns Island who is performing the treatments.
“Our intention is it will begin to repair the organ damage and show healthy values going forward so that we may soon offer this treatment to all of our pet patients,” Roberts said.
Roberts will put Sabrina under anesthesia and make a small incision in her abdomen to take out some fat. The fat will go into a centrifuge and agitator, and enzymes will be added to extract stem cells, which then be injected back into Sabrina. The stem cells will reduce inflammation, allowing renal cells to grow and repair themselves, according to Roberts.
“Modified stem cells find their way to the appropriate locations of the damaged kidneys, engrafting themselves into key areas for renal function, resulting in reduced inflammation, allowing regeneration of tissue and improved function in the kidney,” she said.
The fat that’s not used Monday will be sent to a cryobank laboratory for quick freezing until it’s needed for the next batch of stem cells. Sabrina will need several stem-cell injections over the course of several months. Freezing some of the fat that’s harvested in the operation avoids the need to put the cat under anesthesia again.
The operation and injections normally cost $1,000, plus $650 or so to MediVet, the laboratory that freezes the fat and sends batches for stem cells. Jean won’t have to pay for the operation and injections at the clinic, but she will have to pay the laboratory, which she says is worth it.
Ruth is hoping to find other cat owners for the study. The expected costs are outlined in a writeup of the study on her blog.