Mesenchymal stromal (stem) cells (MSCs) have been studied to treat many common orthopedic injuries in horses. However, there is limited information available on when and how to use this treatment effectively. The aim of this retrospective study is to report case features, treatment protocols, and clinical outcomes in horses treated with MSCs.
65 horses presenting with tendinous, ligamentous, and articular injuries, and treated with MSCs prepared by a single laboratory between 2016 and 2019. Outcome information was available for 26 horses.
Signalment, clinical signs, diagnostic methods, treatment protocol features (prior and concurrent therapies, cell origin, dose, application site and number), and effective outcomes were analyzed. The analysis was focused on comparing the effect of different MSC treatment protocols (eg, autologous vs allogeneic) on outcome rather than the effectiveness of MSC treatment.
MSC treatment resulted in 59.1% (clinical lameness) to 76.9% (imaging structure) improvement in horses with diverse ages, breeds, sex, and lesions. The use of other therapeutic methods before MSC application (eg, anti-inflammatories, shockwave, laser, icing, resting, bandage and stack wrap, intra-articular injections, and/or surgical debridement) was shown to be statistically more effective compared to MSCs used as the primary therapeutic procedure (P < .05). Autologous versus allogeneic treatment outcomes were not significantly different.
A prospective MSC treatment study with standardization and controls to evaluate the different features of MSC treatment protocols is needed. The various case presentations and treatment protocols evaluated can be used to inform practitioners who are currently using MSCs in clinical practice.