I'm still getting used to being in Lexington. One of the things that is interesting about our local paper is that the sport section is that they love horses almost as much as UK; they have a daily full page on horse racing, which is not that surprising, given the large horse industry in the area.
However, this piece from their Breeder's Cup coverage (that's this weekend on ESPN if you want to slide some racing in between college football on Saturday) has some implications far beyond the Keeneland crowd.
The silver-colored gelding named Greg's Gold gives new meaning to the words "self-healing."
He will race Saturday as third betting choice in the $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint.
But he is racing only as a result of successful treatment for a ruptured tendon by means of stem cells taken from his own body.
[Greg's Gold trainer David] Hofmans recalled some of the former treatments for bowed tendons: sending a horse off to Montana to tighten its legs by letting it run in the snow all winter; treating the site with thermocautery, called "firing"; and slicing the tendon during surgery.
It's much easier now. The horse's attending veterinarian removes a few tablespoons of fat from beneath his tail, then sends the fat off to a lab called Vet-Stem, near San Diego.
About 8,000 stem cells -- the horse's own -- are harvested from the fat, then returned overnight in syringes to the veterinarian, who injects them at the site of the injury.
The stem cells "go in there and imitate the (local) cells, then become those cells," said Hofmans. He said the treatment costs about $2,000. That's a small price to pay to return a horse like Greg's Gold to racing.
"I did it with another horse, Hofmans said. This was a 2-year-old who bowed both front legs. "He came back and won three races."
"What the stem cell does," Hofmans added, "is it allows the tendon to still have elasticity so it can stretch and not tear. That's just coming from me, from my observations."
Please note that this is using adult stem cells. No horse embryos needed to be pureed in order to make these, just some fat cells from his own behind.
The stem cells from the horse's rear started acting like muscle. Meanwhile, your fans of embryonic stem cell research often act like a horse's .... rear.