CHENNAI: Nine-month-old Rambo is able to walk and run like any other boxer, the breed of dogs known for being boisterous. But it is a miracle that he is able to do so, because about six months ago, a road accident had left him with a broken spinal cord.
And then, science came to his rescue. Rambo is the first animal patient in the world to have successfully recovered from a spinal injury through stem cell therapy, paving the way for others with similar injuries, say doctors. No wonder a website, www.stemcell-rambo.com, has been dedicated to him.
"We had a boxer for six years before she met with an accident and died. Then we brought home this puppy because he reminded us so much of Rambo. That was why we named him Rambo too," said Anuradha, its owner. Speaking about the accident that led to Rambo's spinal cord breaking, Anuradha said the dog loves ice-cream and it is customary for the family to buy him a cone on his everyday walks. "That day towards the end of 2009, Rambo got very excited over seeing the ice-cream vendor that it ran towards him on the other side of the road and got hit by a vehicle, which led to paralysis of the lower half of his body."
Anuradha and her sister brought Rambo to the Madras Veterinary College in Vepery in tears and begged doctors to make him walk again. "We thought we were jinxed and fate did not want us to have a pet. So we requested the doctors to do all they could," she recalled.
So the veterinarians, as a last resort, decided to conduct a tricky procedure that had so far not been successful. This was December 2009. Stem cells were taken from the dog's own bone marrow and harvested outside in a stem cell bank at the Niche-in Centre for Regenerative Medicine in Chennai.
Then 20 million of the bone marrow mononuclear stem cells (BMMNSCs) harvested were grafted onto the injured site. After the animal accepted the cells and started recovering, another 20 million BMMNSCs were given to the dog intravenously. Now Rambo can move around freely.
The veterinarians who treated the dog are excited about the recovery, because this is the first time that a breakthrough has been made in autologous stem cell therapy used to aid the recovery of a dog with spinal cord injury.
The Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) had earlier attempted the experiment on a three-year-old dog who had a similar injury. A similar procedure was conducted and progress seen, but the animal died on the seventh day.
"This is a preliminary case we are projecting. The dog recovered within one or two months of the procedure being performed. More studies will be conducted," said TANUVAS vice-chancellor Dr P Thangaraju.