Researchers have successfully used stem cells to treat cats with a debilitating mouth disease. The findings could translate into potential therapies for humans suffering from similar ailments. Ben Gruber reports.
STORY: The past five years of Smokey's life have been unbearable. Her owner recalls when her once playful and curious kitty's behaviour changed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) GAIL SALISBURY, OWNER OF SMOKEY THE CAT, SAYING: "It was the summer of 2011. I noticed that she started hiding and that she wasn't as social and then I noticed that her mouth was giving her problems." A trip to the vet confirmed that Smokey had FCGS, a painful inflammatory mouth disease. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRANK VERSTRAETE, PROFESSOR OF DENTISTRY AND ORAL SURGERY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "Chronic stomatitis is a common disease in the cat. It is very debilitating. Those cats are in great pain and it is a very enigmatic disease because no one has been able to reproduce it in experimental cats." That's important because without being able to reproduce the disease in clinic, researchers have no idea what causes the disease or how to effectively treat it. Cats with FCGS usually have all their teeth removed, clearing up the inflammation in some but not all cases. Smokey wasn't lucky. Her teeth were extracted but the disease persisted. That's when she was enrolled in a clinical trial. Researchers used cultured stem cells derived from their feline patients in the hope of reducing inflammation and promoting tissue regeneration. (SOUNDBITE) (English) BOAZ ARZI, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF DENTISTRY AND ORAL SURGERY, SAYING: "I would say that most of our cats, if I have to give a number 60 to 70 percent have responded favorably to the treatment either by complete resolution or substantial clinical improvement without complete resolution at six months." The researchers say these trials are shedding light on these types of inflammatory diseases - and that could potentially have significant implications for humans. (SOUNDBITE) (English) FRANK VERSTRAETE, PROFESSOR OF DENTISTRY AND ORAL SURGERY, UC DAVIS, SAYING: "There are two other species that can get chronic inflammation of the mouth. The first one is the dog and obviously we would like at treatment for dogs as well, but even more importantly humans also get inflammation of their oral cavity." There are plans for human trials using stem cell therapy to treat inflammatory mouth disease as early as next year. As for Smokey, she's cured, but may need a diet. Her owner doesn't think so. GAIL SALISBURY, OWNER OF SMOKEY THE CAT, SAYING: "No. She has been through enough, whatever she wants she can have."