I’ve been on a regenerative medicine kick, writing several posts recently about stem cells, platelet rich plasma, and gene therapy. This up and coming field tantalizingly offers the possibility of addressing the underlying cause of many serious and chronic conditions (e.g., osteoarthritis, autoimmune disorders, diabetes mellitus, and liver disease) rather than just dealing with their effects on the body.

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) certainly falls under the heading of "serious and chronic." It is the most common cause of chronic diarrhea in cats. Dr. Craig Webb, a small animal internal medicine veterinarian at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital said, "Owners of these unfortunate cats are often asked to give multiple medications to their pets on a daily basis, often for the life of their pet. Even then, control of the diarrhea may not be adequate, significantly affecting the quality of life of both the pet and the owner."

Drs. Craig and Tracy Webb of Colorado State University want to investigate whether or not stem cell therapy is useful in treating cats with IBD. They are currently seeking patients for a clinical trial. "Once administered to a patient, these cells appear to migrate to areas of inflammation and begin producing and directing anti-inflammatory defenses," Craig Webb said.

For the study, the scientists need cats that have clinical signs consistent with inflammatory bowel disease (diarrhea, vomiting, or both for more than two weeks) and ideally a diagnosis of IBD based on histopathological examination of biopsied intestinal tissue.

Cats only need to be enrolled in the study for a total of six weeks: two weeks on standard therapy of diet with or without steroids followed by the first stem cell or placebo injection, then the second injection two weeks later, and two weeks later a final blood draw and questionnaire. The study will pay for a sample of the cat’s blood to be sent to Texas A&M for analysis via their gastrointestinal panel at the start and the end of the stem cell therapy.

Cats can be enrolled either at CSU or through their regular veterinary clinic. People interested in the study should ask their veterinarian to contact Dr. Craig Webb at CSU. Veterinarians will be reimbursed for the exam, blood draw, Texas A&M panels, and shipping of the samples.

The study is funded by the Winn Feline Foundation, which is a nonprofit organization that supports studies to improve cat health. Frankie’s Fund for Feline Stem Cell Research, a fund created and maintained by cat owners to support CSU’s feline stem cell program, provided the cells used in the study.

I live just one mile from the CSU veterinary teaching hospital and have a pet with inflammatory bowel disease, but unfortunately it’s my dog Apollo. Maybe the veterinarians at CSU will look into using stem cells to treat dogs with IBD next … hint, hint.

Dr. Jennifer Coates

Image: Tyler Olson / via Shutterstock