Stem Cells To Treat Dementia – by Dr Sam Lackenby
By Scott Lackenby | Dated July 21, 2018
Did you follow the news story recently, about our gorgeous patient Leo? Read on to find out how it all started.
Innovations are happening around us all the time. This is particularly true in the world of medicine. There are times where the veterinary and the human worlds cross paths and help each other to make a difference. This is no more evident, than in the case of a dog called Leo, who presented to us for aggression that only started once he turned 10 years of age (65-70 years of age in human terms). Prior to this he had been a fabulous family dog who was happy and friendly, and had worked as a delta dog, visiting people in the community.
After obtaining a detailed history and undergoing a careful examination, Leo was diagnosed with dementia. From time to time we receive information about medical trials that are being undertaken. Fortunately, Leo’s owners were very happy to participate in a trial that could not only help him, but had the hope of helping people with dementia. So, at the end of 2015 he joined the Sydney University Veterinary Cognitive Dysfunction Trial, and underwent extensive testing to investigate for any other possible causes of his abnormal behaviour. Blood/urine tests and a CT scan were all clear. There was no sign of a brain tumour or other disease except for ageing/cognitive dysfunction of his brain. This was met with relief, and Leo progressed to the next stage of the trial, in which he was anaesthetised and a skin sample was collected. The nerve cells from this skin were grown in the lab and stem cells were harvested from it. Next, these stem cells were injected into Leo’s hippocampus, which is the part of the brain where behaviour areas are located.
Remarkably, since the stem cells were planted in his brain, Leo’s aggressive tendencies have already reduced considerably and he is much calmer and happier than he has been in months. In addition to behavioural assessment, the dogs in the trial also complete obstacle courses before and after treatment to assess their memory. Leo is the 3rd patient in this trial and at least one other patient has also shown improvement in memory, behaviour and mental status. Of course, there is much more knowledge to be gained and many questions to be answered, however if this trial is successful, it may help those in our society who suffer from dementia, particularly at a young age. We are obviously years away from finding cures for many of the debilitating diseases that affect us as we age, but at least there are people and animals actively trying to make a difference. Well done Leo!