Getting to know…

Veterinary Tissue Bank

The Veterinary Tissue Bank was co-founded by Dr Peter Myint and Professor John Innes to meet the unmet needs for a European veterinary community tissue bank and a desire to progress the field of veterinary surgery. Here, Companion Life gets to know more about the organization and the impact of their work.

Could you tell us a little about the work you do at the Veterinary Tissue Bank?

Veterinary Tissue Bank is Europe’s first and only tissue bank for pets, where pet owners of dogs and cats can donate tissues from their pets at the end of their lives. The donated tissues are used in transplants, in other dogs and cats, which need tissues for various surgical procedures. Bone transplants are used to treat in orthopedic cases, such as broken bones, bone cancer, arthritic joints, spinal fusion, etc.; cornea is used to restore sight; and tendons are used to replace torn ligaments. A single donation from a dog or a cat gives transplants to over 60 recipients. To date, Veterinary tissue bank has supplied nearly 10,000 transplants.

What are the health benefits of Stem Cell Therapy for pets?

Osteoarthritis is thought to affect 20% of the dog population, and stem cell therapy is given to treat the pain in arthritic joints. Stem cells are isolated from a small fat sample and are cultured from just a few to millions in number, before they are injected back into the joints of the same dog or cat. Some of the cells are stored frozen, in case a future need arises for them. Following the injection, the animal is expected to become pain free within a few days. Subsequent injections may be needed; however, this can readily be met by re-culturing the frozen cells in the tissue bank without having to harvest another fat sample.

How effective is Stem Cell Therapy?

From the experience of Veterinary Tissue Bank, stem cell therapy provides 80% positive response rate in dogs, shown by the LOAD (Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs) score – a validated, owner completed questionnaire. Of the remaining 20% of non-responders, half responded to a second stem cell injection, giving an overall 90% positive response to stem cell therapy when the second injection is included.

 Is tissue donation only for dogs and cats?

Currently, we only run a donation program for dogs and cats, as these are the species that most frequently need tissue grafts.

How can pet owners sign their pets up to become a pet donor?

The concept of pet tissue donation and transplantation is the same as that in humans. It is also difficult for veterinary staff to raise the subject of donation at a time of great distress for the owner. However, not asking the owner means, effectively, making the decision on their behalf; and for them, it may not be the right one. Registering as a tissue donor in advance can facilitate the donation process, and owners can sign up by visiting and submitting a form online. Veterinary tissue bank then issues a pet donor card and informs the practice of the registration.