Local dogs part of stem cell research program - Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D.

Local dogs, animal hospital part of stem cell research program

Article Published by: heraldandnews.com

Tank, a large 2-year-old Newfoundland dog who fits the name, was getting ready for an out of the ordinary procedure on Nov. 9.

His owner, Jill Lienert, said that Tank suffers from a form of arthritis, which has caused some complications in the past. Lienert said that they didn’t originally think he would make it past two years because of how severe his hips are.

Lienert’s veterinarian, Dr. Doug McInnis, clued her in on a stem cell clinical trial that could help Tank for the better.

“We want him to live a long life,” Lienert said. “If this stem cell thing works, it’ll give him a whole new lease on life.”

Tank is one of 27 dogs involved with the program at West Ridge Animal Hospital in Klamath Falls. Animal Cell Therapies, a San Diego company with more than nine years experience in the field, is sponsoring the tests. Other than West Ridge, there’s only one other veterinary clinic in Southern California that’s part of the program.

“It’s something that’s kind of remarkable, really, for Klamath Falls to have,” McInnis said.

Previous research has shown that stem cells have a large amount of potential to repair the body, according to information from Animal Cell Therapy. McInnis added that stem cells in the body decrease over time, which makes it more difficult for more severe injuries to heal in older people and animals.

In this case, McInnis said that the stem cells are taken from normal discarded umbilical cord tissues from healthy puppies, which is much easier than previous tests that have involved extraction from bone marrow or fat tissues. Animal Cell Therapies states that it does not harvest embryos or obtain tissue from any research animals.

Doctors and researchers hope that the newer cells could work to heal tissue and damages in the affected areas. The current double-blind study compensates willing dog owners with $400 and also pays for any bloodwork or other lab studies needed.

Roughly 20 participating clinics across the U.S. hope to have a total of 600 dogs in the overall study, according to McInnis. The dogs involved must be more than a year old and healthy aside from having arthritis in less than two joints for three months or more. Dogs who are pregnant, suspected of having cancer or have cancer cannot participate.

The test program involves a total of five appointments: there’s a screening visit, followed by actual injection and then three follow-up periods over a six-month period.

The double-blind study currently involves injections of either the stem cell serum or a placebo. Dogs who receive the placebo will also receive stem cell treatment at the end of the study, McInnis added.

McInnis said that there’s a very low amount of risk involved. He and others in the program are required to report any “adverse” events, which could even be as small as digestive issues. This is why McInnis said that they also require any participating dogs to keep the same diet, supplement and medication schedules as they previously had.

Lienert she said that she was excited for Tank to participate overall, adding that he doesn’t seem to get stressed out when she brings him in.

“He loves everybody here,” Lienert said.


Iffie Okoronkwo, M.D. is a Spine and Sports Rehabilitation Medicine and Pain Management physician at Manhattan Spine and Sports Medicine (http://www.manhattanmd.com/), a private practice based in New York City with 40 years of experience providing the finest expert medical care and services to patients around the world.

Dr. Iffie is board certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and, as a physiatrist, utilizes ultrasound guided injections, fluoroscopy guided injections, PRP, regenerative medicine, and more to evaluate and treat a variety of conditions affecting muscles, joints, ligaments, and nerves.