Healing injuries

Multiple studies have demonstrated using stem cells can speed wound healing in different species. They allow wounded tissue to heal more completely and with less scar formation. We’re currently evaluating the use of stem cells and other therapies for treatment of several different types of injuries. These include musculoskeletal injuries, eye injuries and distal limb wounds.

Musculoskeletal injuries

These are very common athletic injuries. They include damage to tendons, ligaments, and structures within joints such as the menisci, collateral ligaments, and cartilage. With FDA approval, our lab offers a bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cell culture service for equine patients of the North Carolina State University Equine & Farm Animal Veterinary Center. This is an very advanced treatment. For more information, please contact Dr. Schnabel at lvschnab@ncsu.edu.

Eye injuries

Eye injuries in horses are common. Horses have relatively large eyes that protrude slightly from the head, leaving the eyes unprotected. The Schnabel lab, in collaboration with world-renowned NCSU equine ophthalmologist Dr. Brian Gilger and resident Dr. Amanda Sherman, has recently pioneered research into whether stem cells speed up the rate at which a horse’s eye heals. These in vitro studies show that: not only can stem cell treatment significantly decrease corneal healing time; it’s also possible that just the fluid these cells naturally secrete has a beneficial effect.

Using the fluid from the stem cells instead of the cells themselves would allow for a safe, off-the-shelf product. That would mean, at the time of eye injury, rather than having to wait several weeks to culture the patient’s own stem cells, treatment could begin immediately. This is the first study of its kind and the Schnabel Lab is excited to continue developing these options for equine patients.

Distal limb wounds

Leg wounds in horses occur frequently and are often left to heal “naturally” by second intention, mainly due to a lack of sufficient skin remaining to allow for stitches (a.k.a. primary closure). Consequently, these distal limb wounds can be very costly and difficult to treat. The blood supply in that area and the tendency of horses to form excessive granulation tissue or “proud flesh” impedes healing.

Sponsored by AniCell BioTech, the Schnabel Lab is working with equine surgery resident Dr. Alex Fowler to improve wound healing. Together, we have been studying the safe use of naturally-processed and preserved equine amnion allografts that are non-invasively collected during the birth of foals. Both a controlled research trial and a clinical trial at NCSU have revealed very promising and repeatable results for the use of these commercially-available products.