Stem cell therapy commonly refers to the process of placing stem cells from the body into diseased or damaged tissues, such as a torn ligament in the knee or perhaps an arthritic joint. This process is often referred to as regenerative medicine, a technique that enables the body to repair and regenerate damaged tissues. Stem cells can differentiate into blood vessel, bone, cardiac, cartilage, fat, ligament, liver, muscle, nerve, and tendon tissue. Stem cells can currently be obtained from the bone marrow and fat (adipose) tissue in dogs, cats, and horses.
Electroacupuncture, EA or E-stim combines traditional acupuncture with modern electro-therapy to create greater stimulation at acupuncture points. In Ancient China, the same effect was achieved by having the acupuncture student manually manipulate the needles (by rotation, redirection, deeper penetration, etc.) throughout a session. The EA unit streamlines this process. Aquapuncture is the use of soluble fluid products - like saline, vitamin B12, homeopathic remedies, or the patient’s own blood (hemoaquapuncture) - injected into acupoints. The fluid injected at these points serves to lengthen and strengthen an acupuncture treatment. Aquapuncture can also be used when a patient cannot tolerate or keep the needles in place.
So you may be asking yourself in cyberspace:
What does all this have to do with stem cells?
The Science-y Bit
In a 2017 study published in the journal Stem Cells, researchers studied the effects of electroacupuncture (EA) on the body, specifically, what happens in the brain and in the blood stream. Here’s what they found:
- EA can activate an area of the brain called the hypothalamus and strengthen beneficial connections to neighboring regions of the brain, like the amygdala. These regions are important for homeostasis and stem cell mobilization.
- Examining circulating blood before and after EA, there was a 313% increase in mesenchymal stem cells. Mesenchymal stem cells are derived from non-embryonic tissue and can differentiate into several cell types including bone, cartilage, muscle, and neurons. They also noted an increase in circulating macrophages and anti-inflammatory cytokines.
- EA can promote “browning” of white adipose tissue. Conversion of white adipose tissue to brown adipose tissue can activate energy use which has positive metabolic effects. This may be a promising avenue for diabetes treatment.
So in addition to reducing pain and inflammation, electroacupuncture may serve as a way to facilitate tissue repair following trauma by supplying a high number of circulating stem cells. Its ability to “brown” white fat can enhance metabolism and influence glucose sensitivity. Harvesting mesenchymal stem cells from the blood of EA-treated patients is a practical and cost-effective collection method, free of the risks and discomfort associated with current, more invasive methods.Now we know more, can we do more?
Armed with new tools (in a new technique we'll refer to as hemoaquapuncture), we can provide improved treatment for the following conditions:
- tendon/ligament injuries
- intervertebral disk disease (IVDD)
- degenerative neuropathies (like degenerative myelopathy)
- metabolic diseases (like diabetes or hypothyroidism)
Research into stem cell therapy is ongoing and we may find additional conditions in which stem cells may be useful. As of right now, stem cell therapy is not recommended for the treatment of cancer, as stem cells may worsen, grow, or spread the cancer more rapidly.
Come see us at Ancient Arts, and we can discuss if this is a good treatment option for your pet!
Salazar, T., Richardson, M. R., Beli, E., Ripsch, M.S., George, J., Kim, Y.,Duan , Y., Moldovan, L., Yan, Y., Bhatwadekar, A., Jadhav, V., Smith, J.A., McGorray, S., Bertone, A.L., Traktuev, D.O., March, K.L., Colon-Perez, L.M, Avin, K.G., Sims, E., Mund, J.A.,Case, J., Deng, X., Kim, M.S., McDavitt, B., Boulton, M.E., Thinschmidt, J., Calzi, S.L., Fitz, S.D., Fuchs, R.K., Warden, S.J., McKinley, T., Shekhar, A., Febo, M., Johnson, P.L., Chang, L., Gao, Z., Kolonin, M.G., Lai, S., Ma, J., Dong, X., White, F.A., Xie, H., Yoder, M.C., Grant, M.B., Electroacupuncture promotes central nervous system dependent release of mesenchymal stem cells, Stem Cells, 2017, volume 35, pp. 1303-1315
Ward, Ernest, “Stem Cell Therapy”, Care and Wellness, VCA hospitals website, 2012
Xie, Huisheng, Preast, Vanessa, Xie’s Veterinary Acupuncture , Blackwell Publishing, 2007, pp.330-335