Published: 02/02/2017 16:36:51
STEM CELL RESEARCH WILL HELP IMPROVE TENDON INJURY PROSPECTS
Tendon injuries are common in racing and sport horses and can result in a shortened, or even end a career. These injuries heal through the formation of scar tissue instead of normal tendon tissue and so are at a high risk of re-injury. Stem cells have the ability to self-renew to generate more stem cells and amazingly, even turn into other types of cells. Using stem cells to treat these injuries may help to bring about normal tendon regeneration and therefore reduce the frequency of re-injury. Our research aims to understand the mechanisms by which different types of stem cells work, so that we can produce the best possible therapy for horses.
In current clinical practice horses are treated with their own mesenchymal stem (MS) cells. This requires each horse to have a tissue sample isolated and results in a delay while the cells are processed and grown to sufficient numbers for injection into the tendon. We are currently investigating embryo-derived stem (ES) cells. The advantage of ES cells is that they grow indefinitely in the laboratory and may therefore provide a quickly accessible source of cells for treating injuries.
Yasmin Paterson is the newest member of our stem cell research team and she explains how she finds herself at the AHT, where this research is heading next and what it could mean for horses in the future…
What and where did you study before coming to the AHT?
For my undergraduate degree, I studied Veterinary Science at The University of Glasgow. During my third year I was selected as a candidate for the Universities MSci programme, giving me the opportunity to take a year out from academic studies to undertake an industrial work placement. I carried out my MSci placement at the Trust back in 2012-2013 so was well aware of the AHT before I started working here. I really enjoyed my placement back then and I am grateful to be given the opportunity to come back to study here again. Alongside my research at the AHT I am now studying at Cambridge University, to gain my PhD.
What do you like about the AHT/what do you enjoy most about working here?
I think the AHT is an extremely welcoming environment, with a very friendly atmosphere. It’s also great that you get to interact with scientists and clinicians with very different scientific backgrounds - which can really help give you different ideas and perspectives on your work.
Tell us about your research project that you will be doing over the next year?
I will be working on a project looking into the use of stem cells as a cell based therapy for treating tendon injury in the horse. Our research group is interested in understanding the differences between tendon repair in adults (which naturally occurs via the formation of scar tissue) versus the regeneration processes which occurs in foetal tendon (which undergoes scar-less regeneration).
My project will use a 3D culture system to create artificial tendons in order to investigate at what developmental stage Embryonic Stem Cell (ESC)-derived tendon cells represent, in comparison to adult and foetal tendon cells. With this knowledge, we will be better informed as to whether ESCs could be used as a potential therapy to improve outcomes for adult tendon injuries.
We hope that the results of this project will provide novel information to inform both future research and clinical studies on the application of cell-based therapies for tendon regeneration.
What triggered your interest in this particular area of science?
I first heard about the concept of regenerative stem cell therapies through the lectures of Dr Tina Rich & Prof Janet Patterson-Kane during my undergraduate studies. To me the idea that a single cell could go on to form all the complex tissues in the body was truly fascinating. I am particularly interested in the mechanisms behind how these cells are able to differentiate into their respective tissue types as well as their potential applications in cell-based therapies.
Why is your research important for horse health and the equine industry?
Tendon injuries present as one of the most common orthopaedic injuries in human and equine athletes. The long recuperation periods required following a tendon injury and the high re-injury risk rates present an important welfare and economic issue. Researching alternative cell-based therapies would therefore be of great benefit to both horse health and the equine industry.
To find out more about our stem cell research: http://www.aht.org.uk/cms-display/science_stemintro.html
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