The purpose of this prospective study was to evaluate the effects of single and repeated intra-articular administration of allogeneic, umbilical cord-derived, neonatal mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) in horses with lameness due to osteoarthritis (OA) of a metacarpophalangeal joint (MPJ). Twenty-eight horses were included. Horses were divided into two groups. Horses in group MSC1 received an MSC injection at M0 and a placebo injection at M1 (1 month after M0). Horses in group MSC2 received MSC injections at M0 and at M1. Joint injections were performed with a blinded syringe. Clinical assessment was performed by the treating veterinarian at M1, M2 and M6 (2 and 6 months after M0), including lameness evaluation, palpation and flexion of the joint. Radiographic examination of the treated joints was performed at inclusion and repeated at M6. Radiographs were anonymized and assessed by 2 ECVDI LA associate members. Short term safety assessment was performed by owner survey. A 2-month rehabilitation program was recommended to veterinarians.
There was a significant improvement of the total clinical score for horses in both groups. There was no significant difference in the total clinical score between groups MSC1 and MSC2 at any time point in the study. There was no significant difference in the total radiographic OA score, osteophyte score, joint space width score and subchondral bone score between inclusion and M6. Owner-detected adverse effects to MSC injection were recorded in 18% of the horses. Lameness caused by OA improved significantly over the 6-month duration of the study after treatment with allogeneic neonatal umbilical cord-derived MSCs combined with 8 weeks rest and rehabilitation. There is no apparent clinical benefit of repeated intra-articular administration of MSCs at a 1-month interval in horses with MPJ OA when compared to the effect of a single injection.