US researchers launch new clinical trial for cats in advanced stages of the disease
Stem cell therapy may be able to slow the progression of kidney disease in cats, US researchers say. A new clinical trial could even have wider implications for human medicine.
Previous studies at Colorado State University (CSU) found stem cells could stabilise the kidneys for cats with early stages of the disease.
A few of the cats with more advanced disease also appeared to benefit, however, showing limited disease progression years after receiving treatment. Encouraged by these results, the research team is now recruiting patients with stage four chronic kidney disease.
“We can’t ignore the possibility that stem cells could help those cats too,” said Jessica Quimby, leading the research.
Chronic kidney disease is common in older cats but the risk factors are poorly understood and other than a kidney transplant, there is no cure.
Stem cell therapy cannot reverse the kidney scarring that occurs in the later stages of the disease, but CSU researchers hope it may improve the overall function of the kidneys.
Shelley McCarron enrolled her six-year-old Siamese cat Baxter on a CSU study last year. She said: “I believe the treatments have stabilised his kidneys rather than restoring them, but we’re grateful nonetheless. It’s certainly better to be stabilised than continue to decline”.
Patients in the trial will be given three stem cell injections, two weeks apart. Diagnostic tests will be carried out by veterinary surgeons before, during and after the treatment to determine the effect.
Dr Quimby said the research could one day benefit human health, as the disease progresses in a similar way in both humans and cats. “Kidney disease is indeed a huge and growing problem in human medicine. If we saw improvement with cats, we could relate it to curing humans”.
Much of the trial costs are covered by Frankie’s Fund for Feline Stem Cell Research. The fund was named after a seal point Siamese cat that helped CSU pioneer their stem cell research in 2009. A photo of Frankie is hung in Dr Quimby’s office as a reminder of the hope offered by the treatment.
CSU researchers are seeking patients with stable, stage four chronic renal disease. Cats with other diseases will not be eligible.