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After my story today about Vet-Stem, the Poway company using fat-derived adult stem cells to treat horses, dogs and cats with injuries like ligament tears and joint disease, I received more than a few e-mails from readers asking why the therapy isn’t available for humans.

The largely successful treatment is fairly simple, painless, cost-effective and non-controversial (because no human embryos are destroyed in the process), so I asked veterinarian and Vet-Stem CEO Bob Harman when pet owners (and other humans) could expect to benefit from the same treatment already available to their pets.

His answer was in line with what many researchers and scientists who attended the giant international biotechnology conference in San Diego last month explained to me: Moving new drugs and therapies from the laboratory to market for human-use is a long and expensive process.

Even though Harman’s convinced that Vet-Stem’s therapy is “completely doable” in humans, he said today that it would be several years at least before the treatment will be available.

Here’s what he had to say:

There are trials already underway in the U.S. and it could be as short as a couple of years for the simple uses, like helping fuse a fracture like a spine. It may take longer for other uses like in the heart or nervous system. No crystal ball here as it takes a long time to clear the hurdles in the U.S.

Basically, it just takes an awful lot of time and money, he said. Vet-Stem, because it only services animals, doesn’t have to get approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration.

— DARRYN BENNETT

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