Veterinary Medicine

Vets continue study of stem-cell therapy for feline kidney disease in fifth clinical trial

January 8, 2014
by Coleman Cornelius

Chronic kidney disease in older cats is the focus of a fifth clinical trial under way at Colorado State University's James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where veterinarians are exploring novel stem-cell therapy that could, for the first time, hold promise for treating one of the most perplexing feline diseases.

CSU researchers seek area cats with the disease to participate in the clinical trial; cats with concurrent diseases are not eligible. For information about the trial and to determine eligibility for enrollment, click here.  

A new treatment option for cats

Studies suggest that about 50 percent of cats older than 10 suffer from chronic kidney disease.

Dr. Jessica Quimby, a veterinarian at Colorado State University, investigates chronic kidney disease in cats.Although the disease is very common, risk factors are poorly understood and it is tough to treat: Chronic kidney disease is considered irreversible, and treatment typically centers on slowing progression of the disease through supportive care, such as dietary changes, injected fluids and blood-pressure medication.

Yet in a pilot study last year, CSU veterinarians determined that stem-cell therapy could provide a new treatment option for cats. After preliminary results, the research team is further investigating the ability of stem cells to repair damaged kidneys.

Veterinarians are intrigued by use of stem-cell therapy for chronic kidney failure in cats because earlier studies demonstrated that the approach could decrease inflammation, promote regeneration of damaged cells, slow loss of protein through urine and improve kidney function, said Dr. Jessica Quimby, a veterinarian leading the CSU research.

“In our pilot study last year, in which stem cells were injected intravenously, we found stem-cell therapy to be safe, and we saw evidence of improvement among some of the cats enrolled in the trial,” Quimby said. “In this study, we will further explore stem-cell therapy with the new approach of injecting the cells close to the damaged organs. We hope this proximity could yield even better results.”

How the study will work

For the CSU study, the stem cells used have been cultivated from the fat of young, healthy cats; donor animals are not harmed.

A Siamese cat named Frankie inspired a CSU fund to help cover the costs of feline stem-cell studies.

The study will track cats with chronic kidney disease for about two months, with a variety of diagnostic tests conducted before and after stem-cell treatment to analyze kidney function.

A special CSU fund, called Frankie’s Fund for Feline Stem Cell Research, will pay the costs of preparing the stem cells, as well as all costs of visits, lab work and injections for cats enrolled in the study.

The fund is named for a Seal Point Siamese cat with chronic kidney disease whose owners sought treatment from the CSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Frankie’s treatment pointed the way to innovative stem-cell therapies for cats with chronic kidney disease. People who want to support the quest for new treatment may donate to the fund by visiting this website.

For more information about enrolling a cat in the clinical trial, contact Dr. Jessica Quimby at jquimby@colostate.edu.

Does your cat have chronic kidney disease?

Symptoms may be subtle; see your veterinarian if you have concerns about your cat’s health.

Signs may include, but are not limited to:

  • Weight loss
  • Poor appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Vomiting
  • Poor coat
  • Bad breath