Stem cell technology is on the march, literally. Old dogs struck by arthritis are enabled to walk again with the help of stem cells drawn from the dog's own fat.
A Sydney veterinary clinic has developed the technique, it is reported.
The treatment, at Ku-Ring-Gai Veterinary Hospital, has been available for less than a year and about 60 dogs, some coming from across the country, have had the injections so far.
One of those is ''Cassie'', a 12-year-old border collie-cross who has taken to chasing possums again since having the injections.
''Before, going for a walk would be a bit of an ordeal, now we can do a walk any day of the week,'' said Elizabeth Beyer, who brought Cassie in to the vet for a check-up recently.
''Her hips have improved, she's walking faster ... she chases possums and what ever else comes in the garden.
''It's about quality of life.'' ''What we see is a pretty rapid, within the first couple of days, reduction in the animal's pain and inflammation,'' University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Associate Professor Ben Herbert said.
''We see animals that are a lot happier, then you go into a zone where the science tells us we are actually getting new cartilage.
''Longer term, going out now to the dogs treated nine and 10 months ago, those dogs are still improving.''
Dr Herbert said it was important to note his work was the practical application of findings from a range of published scientific literature.
The treatment costs between $5,000 to $6,000 but dogs that receive it, like Cassie, no longer need to be on a long-term course of anti-inflammation or pain-killing drugs which also add up in cost over the years.
And because the stem cells are derived from the dog's own tissue, its immune system does not go to work trying to kill off the injected cells.
Dr Herbert told Danny Rose of AAP that his research team at UTS was working on a similar stem cell treatment for dogs with kidney disease and, regulatory hurdles aside, there was no science-based reason why it should not also work in people.
''This has given us the opportunity to immediately translate early stage research into the clinic, and get real clinical data - it's on dogs and cats, but it's in the real world,'' he said.
''There is nothing really different about doing that in a human to doing it in a dog ... (but) the regulatory regime is easier to deal with in dogs.''