He may may not have drunk from an equine fountain of youth, but a horse at a Poolesville farm may be on the road to recovery after undergoing a stem cell procedure to repair his leg.
Armani, a 10-year-old chestnut Hanoverian at the Bascule Farm in Poolesville, had an injury to a large tendon in one of his front legs, said Will Engel, a Mount Airy veterinarian who performed the procedure.
Engel, who founded Ridgeview Veterinary Practice in 1989, is one of 450 veterinarians in the country accredited to perform stem cell therapy on animals, according to a news release from Medivet America. Ridgeview is one the few clinics in Maryland accredited for the procedures.
Engel said he’s been working with stem cells since 1999.
But until recently he had to collect the stem cells, ship them to a company in California to have them “activated” so they “know” what type of cell they’re supposed to act as when injected and have them shipped back, a process that took about three days, he said.
Now Engel can do the entire process in his own lab in a matter of hours, making the operation more efficient, he said.
Engel injected stem cells collected from fat taken from Armani’s rump into the injured tendon, helping the tendon heal more effectively.
A 2012 study by the Equine Research Coordination Group found that while stem cells collected from fat are used, they’re generally considered inferior to stem cells collected from bone, and warned against “miracle” stories about the benefits of stem cells.
If the tendon had healed on its own, there would have been significant scar tissue, Engel said.
But injecting the stem cells, using ultrasound to guide the needle to where it needs to go, allows the injury to heal without significant scarring, he said.
He said Armani’s injury would take 10 to 12 weeks to heal.
“This is about quality of the healing versus the speed of healing,” Engel said.