Every Cat Logo

Stem cell therapy in cats with chronic enteropathy: a proof-of-concept study

Webb TL, Webb CB. Stem cell therapy in cats with chronic enteropathy: a proof-of-concept study. J Feline Med Surg. 2015 Oct;17(10):901-8. (Winn-funded study)

Chronic diarrhea is a common source of frustration for cats, their owners, and their veterinarians. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), small cell lymphoma, and other chronic enteropathies are major causes of non-infectious causes of diarrhea in adult cats. Current therapy for these conditions usually revolves around the use of antibiotics, corticosteroids, and supportive care. There are several drawbacks to this approach; corticosteroids have many side effects and contraindications (such as diabetes, concurrent NSAID use, immunosuppression, etc) and the therapy is targeted at reducing symptoms and not treating the underlying disease.

This Winn-funded paper focuses on the use of Mesenchymal Stems Cells (MSCs) to help manage inflammatory bowel diseases in domestic cats.  Mesenchymal stems cells are immature cells derived from the soft tissue of an animal. These cells exhibit many anti-inflammatory and disease modifying properties and may aid in tissue regeneration. Some human data in Crohn’s disease research suggests that MSC therapy may improve symptoms of small bowel disease and even induce remission.

11 cats with a clinical diagnosis of chronic enterpathy (CE), (including but not limited to IBD) were entered into this study.  Cats were retrovirus negative and free of any other uncontrolled clinical diseases. They were stratified into two groups, one of which received MSC therapy via intravenous infusion, the other placebo. MSCs were isolated from the adipose (fat tissue) of a cat that was removed during routine spay surgery.  No reactions or complications were reported in any cat during the intravenous MSC infusion.  Three other cats were treated with MSCs but owners were not blinded, however no reactions were seen.

Fecal score, client questionnaires, and a GI blood panel (albumin, cobalamin, folate, fPLI, TLI) were performed prior to initiation of the study and at 2 weeks post therapy. There were no large changes at this time, however a general trend to improved fecal score existed.   Questionnaires were repeated at 1-2 months post therapy and showed a significant improvement in owner opinions of GI health in the MSC treated group (5/7 claiming marked reduction in signs).  One cat in the MSC group died of unrelated disease (heart failure) during the course of the study; on post mortem no signs of IBD were found histologically despite a previous diagnosis.

While this study had several limitations (small sample size, lack of definitive diagnosis in many cats, limited diagnostic follow-up) several key points were illustrated. It was demonstrated that allogeneic mesenchymal stem cell therapy can safely be administered to cats with little to no risk of adverse effects, and preliminary evidence suggests that this therapy may be effective in reducing the signs of chronic non-infectious GI disease.  (MRK)

See also:
Panés J and Salas A. Mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of stem cell therapies for inflammatory bowel diseases. Gut 2009; 58: 898–900.

Quimby JM, Webb TL, Gibbons DS, et al. Evaluation of intrarenal mesenchymal stem cell injection for treatment of chronic kidney disease in cats: a pilot study. J Feline Med Surg 2011; 13: 418–426.