It’s Not Bougie to Get Stem Cell Therapy For Your Pets
Gallant CEO Dr. Linda Black on how you can affordably give your dog a long and happy life, thanks to science.
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Here I was thinking that my dog’s interactive feeder represented the height of modern pet care technology. But as my closet full of skinny jeans will attest, I’m usually a few years behind on trends. On the flip side of this à la mode coin is Dr. Linda Black, CEO of Gallant — a company at the forefront of stem cell therapy for pets. The research is positioned to be used as an emerging resource for treating a slew of animal ailments, especially those associated with aging.
If you haven’t thought about biology since your sophomore year of high school, Dr. Black offers a refresher on the concept: “Stem cells are really our body’s own natural mechanism for healing. They act like little pharmaceutical factories that interact with what they find in the body.”
For example, Dr. Black says, when a person cuts their hand, stem cells cause the wound to heal by facilitating cell regeneration and regrowth in the tissue. But, as people age, the amount and health of those stem cells decrease. This is why introducing new ones into injured areas can help allow the body to heal itself again. And for animals, it’s the same concept.
The Path to Healing Pets
Before joining Gallant, Dr. Black was trained as a veterinarian and received a PhD in cell and molecular biology. This background led to a tenure with VetStem Biopharma, which was the pioneering company in this space of pet stem cell therapy. She recalls running an early clinical trial involving dogs who suffer from arthritis. The research team injected their stiff joints with stem cells and 30 days later, a majority of the pets were moving with heightened ease and quickly canvassing their backyards for squirrels.
“When you see that with your very own eyes as a scientist, it’s pretty life-changing”, she says. “That’s how I fell in love with the space.”
In addition to arthritis, Gallant has seen success using stem cell therapy to treat chronic issues, such as dry eyes and allergic skin conditions; kidney, liver, bowel, and spine diseases. It can also treat other age-related conditions, such as osteoarthritis, and even torn ligaments and tendons. The company is primarily focused on dogs and cats but has also helped a few horses. So, to summarize, stem cells sound pretty rad (at the risk of sounding like a science teacher trying to be cool), but where do they come from and how can you have them ready for your pet when needed?
This same question was the founding mission of Gallant. Dr. Black explains that before perfecting how to execute the therapy, Gallant was focused on engineering a non-invasive means of collecting stem cells from pets. The answer to this complex quandary was ironically found in a fairly routine procedure.
“When you take your dog or cat to get spayed or neutered, that tissue is just thrown away. The veterinarian just throws it away, but that tissue also holds a lot of stem cells,” she adds.
How Gallant Works
For $45 a month, Gallant collects that would-be-tossed-in-the-trash tissue and stores it in their San Diego lab. Then, as your puppy or kitten grows into an adult animal and requires some age-induced maintenance, they’ll have it ready to go. And I know you’re thinking the same thing I am — $45 is basically the price of a new pair of Levi’s 511s! But fear not, you don’t have to pick between pants and your pet; the cost decreases to $10 a month after the first year. There’s also a lifetime option of one $990 payment, which Dr. Black admits is the best and most popular deal. In most cases, the initial collecting procedure is included in the price of spaying or neutering, though it’s ultimately at your vet’s discretion.
Of course, if you currently have a pet or are adopting an older one, it’s likely that they’ll already be spayed or neutered. For cases such as these, Gallant stores fat tissue which can be collected through a few other regular check-up appointments.
“For example, let’s just say you have a dog, and it’s already been spayed, but you want to store their stem cells. When you have your dog in for a dental or some other procedure, have your dog’s fat collected, send it, and we’ll bank the stem cells from the fat,” Dr. Black says.
More Progress to Come
It’s worth noting that the stem cells Gallant is working with are not the same as the controversial human embryonic kind. “Those are very different from the stem cells that we get from tissues which we call adult stem cells. And so there are no ethical concerns or controversies in using stem cells that come from tissue as compared to those that come from embryos or the destruction of embryos,” Dr. Black explains.
Like so many exciting new sciences, stem cell therapy’s usage can feel boundless. At least in terms of conditions and ailments the treatment can attack, Dr. Black agrees that we’re just scratching the surface of its potential.
“It’s somewhat unlimited,” she says. “We have a whole Excel spreadsheet of all of the different conditions that theoretically would work well for stem cells. And so it’s just a matter of us going down that list and really developing them.”
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.