Equine metabolic syndrome may adversely affect harvested stem cells

Viability is a concern with stem cells extracted from fat tissue of horses with this metabolic condition.

Equine metabolic syndrome (EMS) may reduce the viability of stem cells harvested from the fat tissue of affected horses, according to research from Poland and Germany.

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Stem cells isolated from fat (adipose) tissue are increasingly used in regenerative medicine. Because they have the ability to differentiate into multiple types of cells and proliferate, stem cells are injected directly into soft-tissue lesions or joints to boost healing.

However, recent research into human regenerative medicine has suggested the stem cells harvested from fat tissue in obese patients or those with insulin resistance are less viable than those from healthy patients.

To see if the same effect occurs in horses, researchers at the Wroclaw University of Environmental and Life Sciences isolated stem cells from fat tissue near the tail heads of six healthy horses and six that had EMS. After the cells were cultured, the researchers examined them for a variety of characteristics, including morphology, number and gene expressions, and compared the results.

The data showed that stem cells harvested from the fat tissue of horses with EMS were less likely to survive and proliferate than were those extracted from healthy horses. What’s more, the stem cells from EMS horses had structural flaws and impaired mitochondria, which regulate cell metabolism.

In addition, the researchers detected accumulations of toxic compounds associated with oxidative stress within the stems cells, which could likely lead to premature death. They conclude that “treating [stem cells from EMS horses] with antioxidants before their clinical application to improve mitochondrial function appears to be justified.”

“Equine metabolic syndrome affects viability, senescence, and stress factors of equine adipose-derived mesenchymal stromal stem cells: New insight into EqASCs isolated from EMS horses in the context of their aging,” Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, November 2015

This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #461, March 2016.