Cryopreservation is the next exciting stage of research in stem cell therapy. Dr. Thomas Koch and his team at the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College are working to preserve cartilage chips for long-term storage, which would enable off-the-shelf use to treat localized cartilage defects that very often shorten or end horses’ athletic careers.

Cryopreservation (or vitrification) is the formation of a solid from an aqueous solution without the formation of ice crystals. Using cartilage chips created from equine umbilical cord blood, this next stage in research has the potential to change the way cartilage defects are treated.

If cryopreserved, stored cells can be used and treatment would be very efficient, with no need to harvest stem cells from the patient. This means fewer visits, less waiting and faster treatment.

Watch the following video where Dr. Koch discusses the future of this ground-breaking research, targeting a common issue (cartilage defects) across disciplines and even species (horse/human).

An injection of funding from Ontario Equestrian allowed for a preliminary study to find out if they were able to vitrify equine cartilage stem cells well from cadavers. “We are very excited to have received this support,” says Koch. “The preliminary study will allow for future funding sources from both equine specific and human medicine.”

The Ontario Veterinary College is currently working in collaboration with a world-renown cartilage vitrification specialist, Dr. Jomha Nadr, and his team at the University of Alberta, Edmonton to establish a robust vitrification protocol for eCB-MSC-derived neocartilage. The work will generate pivotal data to support the clinical evaluation of cryopreserved allogenic eCBMSC cartilage chips to repair focal cartilage defects in research horses. Fully implemented, this therapy would provide a safe, efficacious, and technically simple treatment for horses as well as provide an opportunity for a Canadian biotechnology business to bank and distribute vitrified cartilage tissue in unlimited quantities to the world market.

The future of regenerative therapies are exciting, and the potential applications are wide ranging, from treating cartilage defects to potentially delaying the onset of osteo-arthritic changes to treating bacterial infections and inflammation. “We believe this work has the long-term potential to benefit both horses and humans through the development of novel off-the-shelf cell-based therapies for damaged joint cartilage,” says Koch.