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Can Stem Cell Treatments Cure Spina Bifida?

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 4 September 2017
Can Stem Cell Treatments Cure Spina Bifida?

Stem cell and PRP therapies have been injecting waves of hope into sufferers of diseases and chronic pain.

Whether it be easing the symptoms of osteoarthritis, advancements in cancer care, or aiming to cure diabetes, there's seemingly no limits to the exploratory aspirations of stem cell researchers.

Now, we can add curing spina bifida to the list.  Scientists have been searching for a cure to the rare medical condition via experimentation on adorable test subjects: English bulldogs.

What is Spina Bifida?

Spina bifida is a birth defect where spinal tissue improperly fuses in utero, causing an incomplete closing of the backbone and membranes surrounding the spinal cord. Afflicting approximately 2000 U.S.-born infants annually, the rare disease comes with a range of cognitive, mobility, urinary, and bowel disabilities.

Our Dogs in the Fight

A pair of English bulldogs named Darla and Spanky, born with spina bifida, were the four-legged benefactors of a veterinary and medical super-team's ambition to advance stem cell research.

Most dogs with the birth defect have no control over their hindquarters, and are euthanized as puppies. But at 10-weeks-old, the canines were treated with a surgery (pioneered by Diana Farmer M.D.) that improves brain development in human children with spinal bifida.

The procedure was combined with human placenta-derived mesenchymal stromal cells; multipotent, spindle shaped plastic-adherent cells, that can differentiate into a variety of cells. The stromal cells were held in place by a cellular scaffold.

Doggone it, it worked!

The bulldogs had a follow-up at four-months-old, and showed vastly improved control over their hind quarters; namely, an ability to run and play.

The next step is to see if the treatment improves the dogs' incontinence, another hallmark of spinal bifida. While the dogs' range of motion and mobility issues have shown tremendous progress, they still require diapers.

If It's Good Enough for Dogs, It's Good Enough for Humans

Interestingly, humans would be treated in utero, whereas veterinarians are unable to diagnose dogs with S.B. in the womb. Pending the approval of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there is a push to test the therapy on humans.

Those suffering from spina bifida often require braces, crutches, or wheelchairs, while also managing bladder and bowel dysfunctions. If the research proves fruitful, it could prevent the years of therapy and surgeries needed to combat the ongoing complications of the condition.


The advancements in stem-cell therapy research continue to blow us away. We may not be in the business of trying to treat incurable diseases, but we fully endorse the effort!

Our injection therapies and regenerative medicines such as PRP injections, utilize your body's own natural healing ability to alleviate pain from osteoarthritis, tendon, muscle, and meniscal tears. Call us today at 1-855-712-9901 to schedule an appointment, or drop by one of our RegenerVate locations!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Stoddard is a sport medicine and injection physician in Toronto and is the Medical Director of RegenerVate. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sport Medicine. His injection training, including ultrasound, PRP and Prolotherapy, was primarily done in the USA. He is a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine (CASEM), is married and a proud father of two boys. He is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Treatment Options Stem Cell Research

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