Regenerative medicine for the treatment of musculoskeletal overuse injuries in competition horses

Int Orthop. 2011 Oct;35(10):1569-76. doi: 10.1007/s00264-011-1237-3. Epub 2011 Mar 11.


Purpose: Tissue repair in musculoskeletal injuries is often a slow and sometimes incomplete process. Regenerative medicine based on the use of growth factors (GFs) and cell therapy is aimed at improving the quality and speed of tendon and ligament healing. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential for the administration of a combination of autologous platelet-rich plasma (PRP) and freshly isolated bone marrow mononucleated cells (BMMNCs) in 13 competition horses affected by overuse musculoskeletal injuries (suspensory ligament desmopathy and superficial flexor tendinopathy) and refractory to other therapies.

Methods: After ultrasonographic localisation of the lesion, the autologous BMMNC suspension and PRP were injected directly into the core lesion. BMMNC and platelet count as well as growth factors in PRP were measured to determine factors influencing the clinical outcome.

Results: Horses showed a marked improvement in their degree of lameness and 84.6% were able to return to competition. Among all the factors studied, the platelet concentration predicted the healing time: significantly faster recovery (p = 0.049) was observed in cases of PRP with more than 750 × 10(3)/μl platelets.

Conclusions: Competition horses are involved in highly demanding activities, thus being a similar model for the high mechanical overload typical of human athletes. The promising results obtained suggest that this combined biological approach may be useful even for the treatment of recalcitrant overuse musculoskeletal injuries in highly demanding patients if the appropriate dose of cells and GFs is applied.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Athletic Injuries / therapy
  • Athletic Injuries / veterinary*
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / methods
  • Cell- and Tissue-Based Therapy / veterinary*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / therapy
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / veterinary*
  • Female
  • Horse Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Horse Diseases / therapy*
  • Horses / physiology*
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / cytology
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / transplantation
  • Male
  • Platelet Transfusion / veterinary
  • Platelet-Rich Plasma / cytology
  • Regenerative Medicine / methods*
  • Sports
  • Tissue Engineering / veterinary*
  • Ultrasonography