In January 2023, two studies conducted by Dr. Judith Koenig and her team at the Ontario Veterinary College looked at how stem cells might be used to treat equine osteoarthritis. Equine Guelph provided funding for both studies, which demonstrated the effectiveness and safety of equine pooled cryopreserved umbilical cord blood MSCs in treating joint pain and inflammation in horses.

In the first study, equine umbilical cord blood MSCs from multiple donors were compared to saline injections in research horses. According to Dr. Koenig, this type of cell is more practical as it allows for the treatment of more horses and is readily available from a cell bank. After no systemic reactions were observed, the second study was initiated to test stem cell therapy in horses with lameness due to fetlock osteoarthritis. A lameness evaluator conducted this second study and was blinded as to which horses received stem cell treatment and which the saline placebo.

The six Standardbreds in the study received equal daily exercise on tread- mills, along with follow-up MRIs, for four months. The group treated with equine pooled cryopreserved umbilical cord blood MSCs showed significant improvement compared to the control group after MRIs, x-rays, ultrasounds, and weekly lameness evaluations. The arthroscopic score was also considerably lower in the MSC group after six weeks of treatment.

These initial findings are very promising for the future of treating equine osteoarthritis with stem cell therapy. The researchers plan to conduct an- other trial with six horses this spring.

Equine Guelph does projects at the University of Guelph through funding provided by the racing industry (Standardbred, Thoroughbred, and Quarter horse organizations), the Horse Improvement Program from the Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, and the E.P. Taylor Foundation, which was started by veterinarians.


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