UGA improving feline kidney transplant outcomes with adult stem cells

As stem cell therapy continues to gain traction in veterinary medicine, the University of Georgia Veterinary Teaching Hospital is finding success using stem cells in an innovative new way: helping cats' bodies accept kidney transplants.

In May, veterinary surgeons from the teaching hospital performed their second surgery where they tried to improve a cat's chances of accepting a donated kidney by treating him with adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) harvested from his own body. Cats undergoing the procedure are injected with MSCs during the kidney transplant and receive additional stem cell treatments as they recover.

Arthur, a cat suffering from chronic renal failure, had previously been turned down for the surgery due to his body not absorbing adequate cyclosporine, which suppresses the immune system and reduces the risk of rejecting the donated organ, UGA reported.

The university revealed that Arthur is doing just fine after the surgery, as is the first feline patient treated in 2013. Both cats will have to take medication for the rest of their lives.

According to UGA, the surgeons decided to use adult stem cells based on impressive data gathered from previous studies on stem cell therapy. 

"A study published in 2012 found the use of MSCs during renal transplant surgery in humans lowered the risk of acute organ rejection, decreased the risk of rejection, and the patients had better estimated renal function one year after surgery," said Chad Schmiedt, DVM, DACVS, a board-certified small animal surgeon who heads UGA's feline kidney transplant program.

Schmiedt said the university is currently thought to be the only veterinary facility in the world using adult stem cells to aid feline kidney transplantation. 

And what of the Joey, the cat that donated the kidney to Arthur? UGA said that its feline transplant program requires the owners of the recipient cat to adopt the donor, so Arthur and Joey will share a lifelong friendship as well as a kidney.

Veterinarians interested in the transplant program for their patients can visit the university's veterinary teaching hospital website.

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