FORT COLLINS, Colo. (CBS4) – Researchers at Colorado State University are using stem cell therapy to treat kidney disease in cats. They’re hoping to learn if stem cells can stop the progression of the disease.

It’s the first feline stem cell program in the country which offers hope for the estimated 75 million pet cats in the U.S.

As cats age, a third or more develop chronic kidney disease. The studies underway at CSU may help both the cats and eventually their humans.

Squeakers (credit: CBS)

Squeakers (credit: CBS)

Squeakers is a domestic short hair, 15 years old, part Siamese and ill.

“She’s actually just recently diagnosed with chronic kidney disease,” said veterinarian Dr. Jessica Quimby.

There is no cure for feline kidney disease except a transplant, so Squeakers owner has entrusted her to the veterinarians at CSU.

“Her kidneys are a little bit smallish and a little irregular,” said Quimby.

For five years, Quimby and her colleagues have been running clinical trials on cats in the early stages of kidney disease. They inject them with stem cells harvested from the fat of healthy cats.

“We’ve seen variable results. Some kittens do get a little bit improvement in their kidney function,” said Quimby. “Right after we give the stem cells sometimes it’s just the same.”

But researchers noticed a few cats with more advanced disease were doing quite well so they started a clinical trial.

In that trial, veterinarians injected stem cells into cats in later stages of the disease.

Researchers say although the results are positive, they’re not expecting a cure.

“But we would hope to slow down the progress and buy them more time and make them feel better in the meantime,” said Quimby.

What they learn from the cats may eventually affect their owners. Quimby said the study could serve as a stepping stone to determine whether stem cell therapy would be an effective treatment in humans with kidney disease.

Quimby needs to enroll cats diagnosed with stage 4 chronic kidney disease that live in the Front Range. The study lasts 8 weeks.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

For more information on the clinical trial: http://csu-cvmbs.colostate.edu/vth/veterinarians/clinical-trials/Pages/stem-cell-treatment-of-stage-iv-chronic-kidney-diease-in-cats.aspx

To see if your cat qualifies email Dr. Jessica Quimby: Jessica.Quimby@colostate.edu

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