In a clinical trial led by Dr. Boaz Arzi — a dental surgeon and researcher with the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine — about 20 cats are receiving stem cell therapy that is showing promising results in the treatment of feline chronic gingivostomatitis (or FCGS).
This condition is a debilitating feline dental disease that is marked by severe and chronic inflammation of a cat’s gums and mucosa, the tissue that lines its oral cavity. Though the disease is relatively uncommon, it is very painful and frequently diagnosed among cats with certain viral diseases — especially feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).
“We’re talking about a mouth that is inflamed with ulcers and looks like hamburger meat. It’s completely red and severely inflamed. It’s a very devastating disease in cats,” explained Dr. Arzi.
Beyond being a potential cure for afflicted cats, this stem cell treatment also holds hope for humans afflicted with a painfully similar oral disease.
Stem cells and their regenerative abilities are particularly intriguing to veterinarians and university researchers because they have potential to be useful in everything from healing wounds in dolphins to easing arthritis in pigs and horses. In recent years, there’s been added emphasis on clinical trials of stem cell therapies for companion animals — with the potential to become “translatable” treatments for humans.
Because our companion animals live in the same environments as we do, eat similar foods and can also develop some of the same naturally occurring diseases as humans, researchers feel that they make better candidates for this type of research than lab mice or rodents in developing cures or treating disease.
Like the feline study at UC Davis, there are a number of other stem-cell research projects underway at other veterinary schools. At Tufts University, for instance, veterinary researchers are investigating stem cells in the treatment of perianal fistulas in dogs, and at Colorado State University, researchers have looked at stem cells to treat chronic hepatitis in dogs and chronic kidney disease in cats. — Catnip staff