Stem cell therapy for FCGS

Major research projects have been exploring the use of adipose-sourced stem cells in the treatment of FCGS — a debilitating feline disease.

A promising area of research in treating feline chronic gingivostomatitis syndrome (FCGS) involves stem cell therapy. Major research projects have been exploring the use of adiposesourced stem cells in the treatment of this debilitating feline disease. Researchers at the Veterinary Institute for Regenerative Cures (VIRC) at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) are seeking innovative ways to treat refractory cases of FCGS through the use of the patient’s own stem cells.

Stem cells form the building blocks of development in animals. They have the ability to either self-renew or differentiate into highly specialized cells with particular roles throughout an animal’s body.1 This ability to both replenish and differentiate has made stem cell regenerative medicine very promising as a potential therapy for chronic inflammatory diseases.

The UC Davis studies use feline mesenchymal stem (or stromal) cells (MSCs). The first use of these cells was made possible in 2002 by research done at the Scott-Ritchey Center at Auburn University, where researchers isolated MSCs from feline bone marrow. When properly induced, these cells were found to be capable of differentiating into adipocytic, osteocytic, and neuronal phenotypes.2 Since this breakthrough, it has also become possible to isolate MSCs from fatty tissue, thanks to a 2012 study by Webb, Quimby and Dow showing the similarity in growth between the two sets of cells from different sources. These researchers concluded that MSCs coming from adipose tissue (aMSCs) would be beneficial for clinical use that depends on rapid growth.3 They are also easier to attain, making therapy less painful for the patient.

Researchers at VIRC, led by director Dori Borjesson, DVM, PhD, DACVP, have been driving efforts to apply the regenerative properties of stem cells to FCGS. Their work depends on the use of culture-expanded aMSCs, meaning the cells are harvested and then allowed to grow and multiply; therefore, when they are injected back during treatment, there are millions ready to work on reducing the painful inflammation caused by FCGS.

In two aMSC clinical trials, 14 cats in different stages of disease progression were treated at UC Davis. Trials were divided into two groups of seven cats who received two intravenous (IV) injections of 2 x 107 aMSCs, spaced three to four weeks apart.4 The first group was injected with cells sourced from their own adipose tissue (autologous).5 The second group was injected with tissue from donor cats (allogeneic). Researchers found a very positive response rate from treatment. The autologous infusions were slightly more effective, with more rapid signs of improvement than the allogeneic infusions, especially for the most severely affected patients. Substantial improvement or complete cure was seen in 64% of the patients treated. Unpublished data discussed in The Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery quotes a positive response rate of 72% with no regression or relapse.6

The studies have been expanded to create a multi-center clinical trial with Cornell University.7 The expansion will include the recruitment of cats unaffected by FCGS to serve as a control group.8 As of August 2018, enrollment of new patients was ongoing. Since FCGS is such a painful disease that has gone so long without a direct cure, interest in this area continues. Other clinical studies currently in development will focus on the stages of FCGS, addressing the question of the most effective time to introduce stem cell therapy.9

With such positive results to date, these next steps promise to be even more exciting for those who treat cats suffering from FCGS. For more information, email

To read another cutting edge approach to treating FCGS, visit

References page 211