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Veterinary Doctors Conduct Study Looking To Ease Arthritis Pain

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- Doctors at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine are conducting a study to see if stem cell therapy will ease the pain of arthritis -- and the results of their research could benefit human patients as well.

It's Zoey's last check up, walking on a special mat called a force plate to measure how much weight she puts on each leg.

It was just a year ago that putting weight on her front legs was painful. The 2-year-old Golden Retriever was diagnosed with elbow dysplasia, a condition that created arthritis in both elbows.

"It is the most common cause of chronic pain in dogs," said Dr. Kimberly Agnello at Penn Vet.

Zoey's owner, Christine Brown, says she was a bundle of energy when she first got Zoey.

"She was so sweet," said Brown. "She was your typical energetic puppy."

But soon Brown knew her dog was hurting.

"After coming back from a walk and taking a nap, she would get up and limp," said Brown. "With her being a puppy it was devastating."

Zoey was enrolled in a Penn Vet trial to determine the benefits of stem cell therapy as a treatment to ease arthritic pain.

"They are randomized into three groups, whether they receive an interarticular joint injection of hyaluronic acid or they get either stem cells derived from their bone marrow or stem cells derived from fat," said Agnello.

The stems cells from the dogs bone marrow are injected back into the elbow joint. Doctors hope it will relieve the arthritic pain.

"We also remove a little fragment of bone that can be causing some more pain," said Agnello.

The research isn't just about arthritis in dogs but humans as well.

"The goals of this study are to look for different treatments to not only help our canine patients but also to help human patients with arthritis," said Agnello.

For now results are promising.

"Oh my gosh, she is not limping, she runs and jumps, and has a great time," said Brown.

The trial is ongoing so there is no hard data yet to show final results if stem cells are effective for treating arthritis, but Dr. Agnello says there are many dogs in the study and almost all of them have improved during the year-long research.


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