HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Three brave patients were on the operating table for a procedure -- the first of its kind in north Alabama.
Arthritis plagues many, but the arrival of new technology in Huntsville could change lives.
The medical staff prepped the operating room as they would any other day, but this time, they're breaking new ground using stem cells to rehabilitate joints. By taking fat cells from just behind the shoulder, the procedure is as simple as extracting, injecting, and walking through out door, and onto the relatively quick road to recovery.
"Tasha has bad osteoarthritis. Her hips, the knees, they're in really bad shape," said Dr. Mark Russell.
"We're using the body's own repair cells to regenerate cartilage and bone and tendon," said Trey Smith, the lab director of the stem cell company providing the materials to the hospital on Whitesburg.
It's delicate work that requires the full concentration of the physician and the full faith of the patient. Tasha, a 12-year-old Labrador, is the first pet to receive the services new to the area.
"It's going to give us more options for good quality of life for these pets," said Dr. Russell, a veterinarian at Whitesburg Animal Hospital.
There are tens of thousands of stem cell cases like these worldwide, and the Whitesburg Animal Hospital team is happy to be the first to bring it to the Tennessee Valley.
"These pets that are in pain are able to feel two to three years younger, and do things that they haven't been able to do in quite some time," said Smith, who is walking the Whitesburg team through the procedures supplied by Medivet.
Whitesburg Animal Hospital is now ready to perform one-day stem cell transplants to help pets recover from arthritis without medication in 30 to 60 days.
"We don't have to have the controversy of human medicine over the use of the embryo, all the fetal parts," explains Dr. Russell. They describe the procedure as humane and non invasive, and say the future is bright for Huntsville, and its pets.
"I know they have several prospective clients that have these classic arthritis cases that they just haven't had a cure for," said Smith.
Whitesburg Animal Hospital invites pet owners to look into stem cell transplants for their four-legged friends to ease pain and aid in the treatment of their pets' arthritis, inflammation, or joint-related conditions.