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‘Bleeding’ Study Seeks 100 Performance Horses

The use of Lasix as a treatment for exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage could end if stem cell therapy proves successful.

Exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, or bleeding, is a common condition among thoroughbreds and other heavily worked horses.

Breeders’ Cup Ltd.

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VetStem Biopharma is looking for 100 performance horses with a history of lung bleeding to participate in a study of whether stem cell therapy may be effective in cases of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage (EIPH).

If proven, the treatment could replace the popular but controversial race-day drug Lasix (furosemide).

The Poway, Calif., company reported that two patients—a thoroughbred racehorse and a Quarter horse barrel racer—showed no recurrence of EIPH after being treated with adipose-derived SVF and culture-expanded adipose stem cells. The early success led to the launch this week of a clinical research project that requires up to 100 horses, ranging from thoroughbreds and Standardbreds to barrel racers, three-day eventers and steeplechasers.

VetStem Biopharma hopes to enroll the horses by year’s end and later submit the research data for publication. A larger study will be undertaken if the results are positive, said Ross Rich, DVM, the company’s director of clinical research.

Veterinarians recommending horses for the study need to confirm EIPH through a post-race endoscopic examination or by bronchoalveolar lavage, Dr. Rich said.

Lasix is controversial in the United States because of its potential as a performance-enhancing drug and as a masking agent for other drugs.

The American Association of Equine Practitioners supports the use of Lasix as a race-day medication to control EIPH “in the absence of a more effective treatment/preventative,” according to the group’s position statement.

VetStem Biopharma hopes it has found a new treatment for EIPH.

“That’s the whole intent of the study: to prove that this will replace Lasix … which is a temporary preventative,” Rich said. “[Stem cell therapy] has the potential to be a permanent repair for this type of problem.”

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