CHUBBUCK, Idaho - One local animal hospital performed southeast Idaho's first stem cell procedure Monday.
For the first time, the Alpine Animal Hospital in Chubbuck helped two animals ease their arthritis pain using a procedure that takes stem cells from the animals' own fat tissue.
Karen Vargas noticed her 9-year old dog, Sadie, growing older and more effected by arthritis in her joints.
"She has arthritis in her front paws and her front legs and so I thought this is a wonderful time to have it done," Vargas said. "So I called and I said, 'Hey, let me have the first dog being done here in Pocatello,' and I was so excited."
Sadie is a therapy dog who has helped comfort people since the new Portneuf Medical Center was built two years ago. Since then, Sadie would tote around a backpack full of chocolate to cheer-up those around her.
But now, Sadie herself is going under the knife herself.
"It's pretty exciting for us here at the Alpine Animal Hospital to be groundbreaking and heading in this direction with stem cells," veterinarian Dr. Steven Haymore said. "I think it's going to be something we see in the future for veterinary medicine pretty routinely, if not in human medicine."
Once the fat tissue from Sadie's abdomen had been harvested, it was placed in test tubes. Once in the lab, the test tubes were mixed with various solutions and spun into a liquid before being digested down a centrifuge that separates the fat cells from the clean, stem cells.
Haymore said fat tissues are used in this process because, although there are stem cells located throughout the whole body, there are greater concentrations of them in the fat itself. As a matter of fact, in one test tube alone, there are up to billions of stem cells ready to be processed and injected back into the body.
A stem cell is any undifferentiated cell, meaning it is a young cell that does not know what tissue it is going to become. Therefore, once the stem cells are ready to be injected back into the body, they can easily take the identity of the cells surrounding it.
In Sadie's case, the cells will be placed in the centrifuge a total of four times and reduced back down to a concentrated set of pink cells, in a clear, heterogeneous separation from the yellow fat tissue which will act as anti-inflammatory cells to help ease the pain of her arthritis.
Veterinarians said, depending on the animal, the healing process can take anywhere between three days to three weeks before the animal will start to feel a difference.
Haymore also said that although the entire ordeal can cost anywhere around $1,500 per animal, he believes it will save the owners more money and bring down hospital expenses in the long run.
Follow Kaitlin on Twitter: @KaitlinLoukides