Basic Science and Clinical Application of Stem Cells in Veterinary Medicine

  • I. RibitschEmail author
  • J. Burk
  • U. Delling
  • C. Geißler
  • C. Gittel
  • H. Jülke
  • W. Brehm
Part of the Advances in Biochemical Engineering / Biotechnology book series (ABE, volume 123)


Stem cells play an important role in veterinary medicine in different ways. Currently several stem cell therapies for animal patients are being developed and some, like the treatment of equine tendinopathies with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), have already successfully entered the market. Moreover, animal models are widely used to study the properties and potential of stem cells for possible future applications in human medicine. Therefore, in the young and emerging field of stem cell research, human and veterinary medicine are intrinsically tied to one another. Many of the pioneering innovations in the field of stem cell research are achieved by cooperating teams of human and veterinary medical scientists.

Embryonic stem (ES) cell research, for instance, is mainly performed in animals. Key feature of ES cells is their potential to contribute to any tissue type of the body (Reed and Johnson, J Cell Physiol 215:329–336, 2008). ES cells are capable of self-renewal and thus have the inherent potential for exceptionally prolonged culture (up to 1–2 years). So far, ES cells have been recovered and maintained from non-human primate, mouse (Fortier, Vet Surg 34:415–423, 2005) and horse blastocysts (Guest and Allen, Stem Cells Dev 16:789–796, 2007). In addition, bovine ES cells have been grown in primary culture and there are several reports of ES cells derived from mink, rat, rabbit, chicken and pigs (Fortier, Vet Surg 34:415–423, 2005). However, clinical applications of ES cells are not possible yet, due to their in vivo teratogenic degeneration. The potential to form a teratoma consisting of tissues from all three germ lines even serves as a definitive in vivo test for ES cells.

Stem cells obtained from any postnatal organism are defined as adult stem cells. Adult haematopoietic and MSCs, which can easily be recovered from extra embryonic or adult tissues, possess a more limited plasticity than their embryonic counterparts (Reed and Johnson, J Cell Physiol 215:329–336, 2008). It is believed that these stem cells serve as cell source to maintain tissue and organ mass during normal cell turnover in adult individuals. Therefore, the focus of attention in veterinary science is currently drawn to adult stem cells and their potential in regenerative medicine. Also experience gained from the treatment of animal patients provides valuable information for human medicine and serves as precursor to future stem cell use in human medicine.

Compared to human medicine, haematopoietic stem cells only play a minor role in veterinary medicine because medical conditions requiring myeloablative chemotherapy followed by haematopoietic stem cell induced recovery of the immune system are relatively rare and usually not being treated for monetary as well as animal welfare reasons.

In contrast, regenerative medicine utilising MSCs for the treatment of acute injuries as well as chronic disorders is gradually turning into clinical routine. Therefore, MSCs from either extra embryonic or adult tissues are in the focus of attention in veterinary medicine and research. Hence the purpose of this chapter is to offer an overview on basic science and clinical application of MSCs in veterinary medicine.


Animal models Clinical stem cell applications Embryonic stem cells Immunogenicity Induced pluripotent stem cells Mesenchymal stem cells Regenerative medicine Stem cell sources Veterinary medicine 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. Ribitsch
    • 1
    Email author
  • J. Burk
    • 1
  • U. Delling
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. Geißler
    • 1
  • C. Gittel
    • 2
  • H. Jülke
    • 1
  • W. Brehm
    • 2
  1. 1.Translational Centre for Regenerative MedicineLeipzigGermany
  2. 2.Faculty of Veterinary MedicineLarge Animal Clinic for SurgeryLeipzigGermany

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