Can cryopreservation of equine stem cells work for cartilage repair?


Researchers at Equine Guelph in Canada have received funding for a preliminary study into the feasibility of successfully freezing equine cartilage stem cells.

Cryopreservation is the next exciting stage of research in stem cell therapy. Dr Thomas Koch and his team are working to preserve cartilage chips for long-term storage, which would enable off-the-shelf use to treat localized cartilage defects. Such defects very often shorten or end horses athletic careers.

Cryopreservation (or vitrification) is the formation of a solid from an aqueous solution without the formation of ice crystals. Using cartilage chips created from equine umbilical cord blood, this next stage in research has the potential to change the way cartilage defects are treated.

If cryopreserved, stored cells can be used; treatment would be very efficient, with no need to harvest stem cells from the patient. This means fewer visits, less waiting and faster treatment.

Dr Thomas Koch
Dr Thomas Koch

With the funding, from Ontario Equestrian, the researchers will undertake a preliminary study to find out if they can vitrify equine cartilage stem cells well from cadavers.

“We are very excited to have received this support,” Koch says. “The preliminary study will allow for future funding sources from both equine specific and human medicine.”

The Ontario Veterinary College is working in collaboration with world-renown cartilage vitrification specialist Dr Jomha Nadr and his team at the University of Alberta, Edmonton, to establish a robust vitrification protocol for eCB-MSC-derived neocartilage. The work will generate pivotal data to support the clinical evaluation of cryopreserved allogenic eCBMSC cartilage chips to repair focal cartilage defects in research horses. Fully implemented, this therapy would provide a safe, efficacious, and technically simple treatment for horses as well as provide an opportunity for a Canadian biotechnology business to bank and distribute vitrified cartilage tissue in unlimited quantities to the world market.

The future of regenerative therapies are exciting, and the potential applications are wide-ranging, from treating cartilage defects to potentially delaying the onset of osteoarthritic changes to treating bacterial infections and inflammation.

“We believe this work has the long-term potential to benefit both horses and humans through the development of novel off-the-shelf cell-based therapies for damaged joint cartilage,” Koch says.

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