Stem cell therapy has been used to treat osteoarthritis in a gorilla for the first time, by scientists at the University of Sheffield.
Liesel, the elderly matriarch at the Budapest Zoo has been finding it difficult to walk on her left leg for some time now, suggesting that she may be suffering from arthritis.
An international team, led by Endre Sós, Chief Vet and Acting Director General at the Budapest Zoo and Professor Mark Wilkinson, an Orthopaedic Surgeon and leading international expert in the treatment of human arthritis from the University of Sheffield, carried out a comprehensive assessment of Liesel’s major joints and used mesenchymal stem cells to treat alterations in her left hip and knee joints.
Osteoarthritis is a progressive degenerative process of the joint. Once the cartilage is worn and damaged, the process is irreversible and current treatments focus on symptomatic control but not to treat the disease itself.
The use of stem cells for the treatment of arthritis and regeneration of the damaged cartilage has been successfully piloted in several animal species in recent years, such as dogs and horses and small-scale clinical trials in humans have also proven to be a promising treatment for this condition. Liesel is thought to be the first primate in the world to receive the treatment and successfully benefited from the work of the research team.
Following previous successful research trials on arthritis-affected dogs, Stem CellX - a company made up of a team of international scientists working in the field of stem cells, regenerative medicine, and genetics - was established to develop new technologies for the formulation of stem cell-based products for arthritis treatment in animals.
Stem CellX founder and Professor of Cell Signalling at the University of Sheffield, Endre Kiss-Tóth has collaborated with Professor Mark Wilkinson for a number of years to explore novel treatment options for human arthritis. They now jointly lead a preclinical programme to test Stem CellX technologies for the development of a similar stem cell treatment in human patients.
The company recently partnered with Budapest Zoo to provide this treatment for animals in need, as well as supplying zoos globally.