I am an eternal student. It is the price you pay when you are obsessed with what you do, and you can’t get enough of it.
I am constantly in search of the newest ideas, innovations, and treatments. Because of this I read each veterinary medical journal with baited, anxious breathe, and the hopes that tomorrows cases will benefit from today’s readings. I read, highlight, tear out, and save each journal article that I think can be a source for future patient care. I have boxes full of binders that overflow with “needed vital information.” It has begun to resemble a veterinary student driven to the brink of OCD. I admit it, I understand it, and still I am powerless to stop it. To prove my point on how vitally important these articles are I thought I would share my latest tear out.
Today’s article is from a favorite veterinary journal, “DVM Newsmagazine” November 2011. “AMC stem cell study to investigate intra-arterial injection for kidney disease,” written by Daniel R. Verdon. The article is particularly interesting to me on many levels. First, I lost another beloved kitty yesterday to kidney disease. She was the third in a row to have lost the battle against chronic renal disease. Of all of the old cat diseases I think kidneys wear the crown. I remind my clients that cats and dogs have basically the same biology, so if humans get it, cats and dogs get it; cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, etc. We all will die of some kind of disease and for many 2 and 4 legged beings it will likely be from one of these. But where the biology’s may parallel the treatment options diverge greatly. Much of this is based on cost, but where it may be available to humans the science exists for pets but society still largely views pets as disposable/replaceable so the options are limited.
Here is where it gets really intriguing and interesting. For humans if your kidneys are failing you start dialysis, and go on a waiting list for a transplant. Today transplants have become a common part of every large hospitals menu. If one of your parts isn’t working correctly, or you don’t like them anymore, and you are a human being, you can get it exchanged. Transplants have been researched, tried and successfully done in pets also. The big dilemma is that unlike with human beings, a donor pet isn’t able to give consent to have their parts harvested. And in veterinary medicine we don’t have an organized transplant team. Instead if you need a new kidney for your cat another healthy cat is slain for their beans. It is a thought I can’t bear to think about. I know how much I love my cats but I can’t say that my kitties are more important than someone else’s. Even if that kitty wasn’t fortunate enough to have been dealt a lucky hand in life and landed in the loving arms of someone who understands and respects them. It is a hard lot to be born a feline. So kidney transplants are available to pets. The starting cost is about $40,000 and a conscious that will burden you. Dialysis is available, but unfortunately it is not an option in many parts of the country. That leaves you with a definitive death sentence when your kidneys start to crap out.
Then I read the article in DVM magazine. AMC (Animal Medical Center) in NYC is a forward thinking modern great American veterinary hospital that leads in almost every field of veterinary medicine. It is the premier think tank hospital that isn’t affiliated with a teaching hospital. If you live in or around NYC and you want, and can afford the pinnacle of veterinary medicine, than you and your pet go to AMC. The article describes a new novel study underway at AMC that will place stem cells via intra-arterial injection into the diseased and failing kidneys. The hope is that these stem cells will recreate a healthy environment in an environment that is dying. It is a hot topic in all fields of medicine. Stem cells represent the sort of magical but taboo medical treatment option. It is the point where religion meets pushing the edge of science. We appear to be too afraid to do it in human medicine but not veterinary medicine. Can you imagine the can of worms this will open? Can you imagine what will happen if we learn that we can stop, or even reverse disease? Can it be possible that we will be able to cure our pets but die ourselves of the same disease because our pets have treatment options that we humans don’t have?
The incredible juxtaposition to be a creature without any opinion on whether or not you were worthy of being treated has now turned into being able to take a sip from the fountain of youth.
Truth be told I won’t think of killing one cat to be able to transplant a kidney into one of my kitties, but sign me, (oops, I mean them), up for stem cells.
To read the entire article see page 20 of the November 2011 DVM magazine.