Stem Cell Therapy for Equine Metabolic Syndrome

Traditionally used to help horses with tendon, ligament, or joint injuries, regenerative therapies, such as stem cell technology, reportedly have a much further reach than originally suspected. As reported by a group of Polish veterinary scientists, stem cells also support horses with equine metabolic syndrome (EMS)*.

“An increasingly prevalent condition in domesticated horses, EMS describes those with obesity, insulin resistance, excess circulating fat, and laminitis,” described Laura Petroski-Rose, a veterinarian for Kentucky Equine Research.

Nutritional management and exercise are recognized as key management strategies for affected horses. Depending on the severity of disease, such recommendations include limiting or eliminating grazing and selecting the appropriate level of nonstructural carbohydrates—the latter of which can be achieved through consultation with a Kentucky Equine Research nutrition advisor.

Experts now attest that EMS also negatively affects the body’s stem cells, forcing them into “premature aging affecting their stemness,” which can be defined as a cell’s ability to self-renew and differentiate.

“According to the latest research, treating EMS horses with stem cells together with nutritional management significantly improves their clinical condition,” relayed Petroski-Rose. “The rationale for this hypothesis stems from the fact that stem cells possess immunomodulatory properties and act as insulin sensitizers, meaning they could improve the horse’s response to insulin to better control blood sugar levels.”

This research, however, is still in its infancy and questions regarding which type of stem cell to use and whether or not the horse’s own stem cells should be used, considering an EMS horse’s stem cells have potentially lost their stemness, or if the stem cells should be collected from a healthy donor remain to be answered. Further research should reveal if stem cell therapy becomes a viable way to help treat EMS.

*Krzysztof Marycz, K., I. Michalakc, K. Kornicka. 2018. Advanced nutritional and stem cells approaches to prevent equine metabolic syndrome. Research in Veterinary Science. 118:115-125.