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High-Tech Vet Medicine Saving Lives of Pets and People

SCHAUMBURG, Ill., Sept. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Laser scalpels, arthroscopic surgery, genomic research, and now even dog heart defibrillators -- veterinary medicine is quickly expanding into new high-tech approaches to save pets. This work has a side benefit; it's improving medicine for people, too.

Pet owners are demanding increasingly advanced care for their pets to treat diseases like diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems and cancer, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association's "U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook." Today, many pets that would have been euthanized in the past are being saved by veterinarians. And these new treatments for pets often translate into new treatments for humans.

"Our work could have enormous impacts on human medicine. I'm already getting letters from people who want this surgery," explains Denis Marcellin-Little, a veterinarian at the North Carolina State University (NCSU) College of Veterinary Medicine.

After a German shepherd known as Cassidy refused traditional strap-on prosthetics for a missing hind leg, Cassidy's owners asked for a permanent leg replacement. Dr. Marcellin-Little's team at NCSU applied a revolutionary solution -- attaching a new carbon fiber leg directly to the bone with a titanium fitting. This new process uses computed tomography (CT) scans to engineer three-dimensional implants to perfectly fit the patient's bones.

Dr. Marcellin-Little's procedure has already been used to implant limbs on two cats and to create a plate for the roof of a dog's mouth. Someday, it's expected to help build prosthetics that function like real limbs for human patients.

Likewise, Dr. James Cook, a veterinarian at the University of Missouri, led a research team that developed the BioDuct Meniscal Fixation Device, which will allow people with knee injuries to avoid arthritis and have better joint function. The device helps heal the meniscus, a buffer of cartilage between bones in the knee joint, by transporting blood cells to the area to promote healing.

Dr. Cook and researchers on his team have performed joint surgery on 25 dogs using the new device, and each of the animals had partial or complete healing of the joint cartilage a few weeks after surgery. It's now earned U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for human medicine.

SOURCE American Veterinary Medical Association
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