I know the first reaction of many will be thoughts of embryo transplants, cloning, and other hot topics in the juicy world of modern medicine. But read on. There are a few pluses for those who may have moral issues with stem cell treatments:
1) The cells are not embryonic -- they came from body fat.
2) There is no legal red tape with stem cell treatment in the veterinary field.
3) There are no donors involved. The cells are taken from Hunter himself.
A fourth advantage is that stem cell treatment is about 80% less costly than a hip replacement, which was Hunter's alternative.
So far, veterinarians boast about a 70% success rate using this method. Two weeks after Hunter's treatment, he is already moving better and seems happier.
Most exciting for me was the story of Be a Bono, a race horse with bone chips in his knee and a damaged fluid sac.
This is the same problem Clifford has. As I described in Return to Manitou, he whacked his knee during a trailering incident several years ago and broke off a bone chip. (He hates that trailer.) Since that time, the knee has swelled up, and the cartilage has disappeared. Clifford has about half the flexion he used to. He is only 16 years old -- a young age for a Morgan -- and is now only able to go on short rides.
Be a Bono's career was over. In fact, quite possibly, so was his life. In an experimental effort, he was injected with stem cells in November 2005. The quarter horse has since returned to racing and gone on to win over a million dollars in prize money.
I'll be calling my vet on Monday.