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Canine Comparative Orthopedics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory

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Culture of canine Multipotent Stromal Cells (MSCs) in the Comparative Orthopedics & Cellular Therapeutics Lab. Ms. Shannon Huggins prepares culture dishes containing canine MSCs for media exchange in the lab’s biological safety cabinet (tissue culture hood).

The goal of the Comparative Orthopedics and Cellular Therapeutics Laboratory is to advance the field of canine orthopedics and stem cell therapy for the mutual benefit of veterinary and human orthopedic patients. Founded in 2010, the lab is located in the Veterinary Medical Research Building adjacent to the Small Animal Hospital. The lab provides isolation and expansion of canine adult stem cells (also referred to as Multipotent Stromal Cells or MSCs) for treatment of orthopedic disorders in patients admitted to the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Additionally, the lab is active in the research fields of clinical orthopedics, biomechanics, and stem cell biology/regenerative medicine.

W. Brian Saunders, DVM, PhD, Diplomate ACVS is the laboratory director and is an Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery in the Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences. Dr. Saunders is one of the faculty surgeons on the Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery Service. His clinical interests include arthroscopy, total joint replacement, advanced diagnosis and treatment of limb deformities, development of improved treatment options for osteochondrosis, and use of MSCs for treatment of orthopedic disorders in dogs.

Ongoing basic science projects include:

  1. Growth-factor and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) mediated invasion and differentiation of canine stem cells or bone tumor cells in three-dimensional (3D) collagen matrices
  2. Profiling cellular responses of stem cells to inflammatory wound or osteoarthritis environments
  3. Molecular regulation and modulation of MSC osteogenic differentiation
  4. Development of 3D cell scaffolds for tissue engineering.
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Microscopic evaluation of canine Multipotent Stromal Cells (MSCs) in the Comparative Orthopedics & Cellular Therapeutics Lab. Robert Bearden (graduate student) and Shelby Gasson (veterinary summer research student) evaluate a culture of canine MSCs using phase contrast microscopy and digital photography.

Ongoing clinical projects include:

  1. Development of improved isolation and characterization techniques for canine MSCs
  2. Comparison of growth and differentiation of bone marrow, fat, synovium, and other tissue-derived MSCs
  3. Use of MSCs in treatment of non-healing fractures, osteoarthritis, meniscal injury, and cartilage loss
  4. The role of limb alignment in the development and treatment of elbow dysplasia in dogs
  5. Validation and effect of IRAP II for treatment of osteoarthritis in dogs.

The lab contributes to the education of veterinary students, graduate students, interns, and residents through the basic science projects, clinical projects, and clinical services described above. A number of important collaborations have been developed between the Comparative Orthopedics and Cellular Therapeutics Lab and other scientists within the Texas A&M System, as well as with veterinary surgeons and research scientists throughout the U.S. and Canada. The lab is funded by both intramural and extramural funding sources, and through gifts to the Bone & Joint Fund , a Texas A&M Foundation fund established to support the Small Animal Orthopedic Surgery Service’s clinical and research efforts. For additional questions regarding canine stem cell therapy, please refer to our stem cell therapy page, or contact us via email or by phone at (979) 845-2351.




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Biomechanical testing of two fracture fixation systems.
Evaluation of LC-DCP/rod and CRIF/rod systems for use in canine fracture patients in collaboration with Dr. Michael Moreno, Texas A&M University Dept. of Mechanical Engineering.
Panel A: Photograph of a four-point-bend testing apparatus.
Panel B: Load-deformation curve generated from the four-point-bend method shown in panel A. Both constructs exhibit similar stiffness in response to bending loads.
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Invasion of canine Multipotent Stromal Cells (MSCs) in three-dimensional (3D) collagen invasion assay
Identifying MSCs with superior homing and invasion abilities may serve as a useful in vitro assay when screening MSCs for clinical use. In addition, these assays allow stem cell biologists to study the molecular mechanisms involved in this process.
Panel A: MSCs are seeded on the surface of a 3D collagen gel (blue background, out of focus). In response to certain growth-factors, MSCs invade the gel employing integrins, MMPs, cytoskeletal reorganization, and cell signaling in the process (bar = 50μm).
Panel B: The gel from Panel A is sectioned and examined from a side-view. Open arrow denotes starting monolayer of MSCs. Invading MSCs are more clearly visible within the gel using this view (bar = 50μm).
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Determining standing limb alignment values in a cohort of healthy Labrador Retrievers.
We believe that the overall alignment of the bones and joints of the front limb may play a role in development of elbow dysplasia, a debilitating joint disease common in large and giant breed dogs. Moreover, diagnosis and treatment of abnormal limb alignment may provide additional treatment options for this disease.
Panel A: Illustration of the technique used to determine standing limb alignment in dogs.
Panel B: Radiograph (x-ray) illustrating the mechanical axis of the humerus (upper arm), joint reference line of the elbow, and resulting joint reference angle of the elbow (mLDHA). These techniques were used to report twelve normal limb alignment values in a cohort of healthy Labrador Retrievers.