Close-up of small white dog paws.
Regenerative Medicine

Infrared Rover: How Regenerative Medicine Saved Dr. P’s Dog

This article is a little different than the ones I typically write as it’s a personal story that hits close to home for me. My Shih Tzu dog, Molly, fell from our bed a few weeks ago and became paralyzed in her back legs. As an orthopedic surgeon, I knew this was a serious injury and we immediately took her to a veterinarian and a neurologist veterinarian. After an MRI scan she was diagnosed with a spinal cord contusion. My wife and I were devastated.

Molly is like a family member and it broke our hearts to watch her try to move around. We had to use a sling under her back legs to allow her to walk with her front legs, as she could not move her two back legs. She couldn’t even wag her tail.

Fortunately, she could still move her bladder and bowels with effort. In the opinion of the vet, Molly should have a good recovery, but it would take quite some time.

My wife asked if there was anything I could do along the lines of regenerative medicine. I knew stem cells had shown good results in some spinal cases, so I called my friend Dr. Jo Serrentino, a veterinarian with a Ph.D. in stem cell biology, to brainstorm some ideas. I have the utmost regard for her and we have collaborated on many cutting-edge projects. Together, we came up with a few ideas.

With athletic injuries, I use enzyme therapy to reduce swelling and inflammation. I will often use a form of Wobenzym, a combination of proteolytic enzymes and some antioxidants, which works systemically by targeting various tissues and organs in the body. Wobenzym targets the immune system modulating the immune response to restore a healthy balance between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines. In this case, we wanted to take out the big guns because we did not feel that Wobenzym would fulfill our needs.

Instead, we decided to use a combination of two enzyme compounds, serratiopeptidase and nattokinase, to reduce swelling and inflammation. These enzymes work systemically by targeting various tissues and organs in the body, and modulating the immune response to restore a healthy balance between anti-inflammatory and pro-inflammatory cytokines. We found some over-the-counter combinations of these two enzymes and decided to give them a try.

Serratiopeptidase is a powerful enzyme that helps with injuries by reducing inflammation, promoting tissue repair, and relieving pain. It can treat various injuries, such as sports injuries, surgery, and trauma. Serratiopeptidase is a proteolytic enzyme that comes from the bacteria serratia marcescens and is now made by recombinant DNA methods.

Serratiopeptidase has multiple benefits. First, it reduces inflammation by breaking down proteins involved in the inflammatory response. Excessive inflammation can delay healing, so reducing it is essential. Second, it promotes tissue repair by breaking down scar tissue and reducing fibrin buildup. Fibrin is a protein in blood clotting and can contribute to scar tissue formation. Lastly, Serratiopeptidase has pain-relieving effects. It works by breaking down proteins that contribute to pain and inflammation, making it useful in treating injuries.

Serratiopeptidase is known for its anti-inflammatory properties without the side effects of typical anti-inflammatory medications. It is used to treat multiple conditions, including arthritis, sinusitis, bowel disease, autoimmune disorders, and pulmonary problems.

The other enzyme we used is called nattokinase, derived from the bacterium, bacillus subtilis. This potent proteolytic enzyme breaks down fibrin into smaller fragments that can be eliminated from the body. It does this by activating plasminogen, which then turns into plasmin, a proteolytic enzyme that breaks down fibrin. Nattokinase also reduces blood viscosity by breaking down fibrin, which can increase blood flow.

Further research has shown that nattokinase is effective in lessening excessive coagulation, which improves circulation and oxygen delivery to tissues. This makes it useful in treating chronic conditions like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, Lyme disease, and inflammatory bowel disease, which involve pathogen-induced fibrin deposition and tissue hypoxia. These conditions can lead to chronic inflammation and scar tissue formation.

To prevent this, we need to ensure optimal blood flow to every cell, making nattokinase and serratiopeptidase an excellent combination for treating various musculoskeletal and autoimmune issues.

For example, we used them to eliminate clots from Molly’s spinal cord contusion, reduce inflammation, and prevent scar tissue formation. These enzymes have worked exceptionally well, and I plan to use them on many patients in the future.

PHOTOBIOMODULATION

Many people know I greatly believe in PhotoBioModulation Therapy (PBMT). I have used this treatment in all my regenerative procedures for years. When it came to treating Molly, we were sure that PhotoBioModulation would be helpful, but we did not know how much it would help. 

In dogs, like people with spinal cord contusions, PBMT can help improve the recovery rate by reducing inflammation, promoting tissue repair, and improving neural function. It is believed to involve the absorption of light energy by specific chromophores (light-absorbing molecules) in cells, which triggers a cascade of cellular and biochemical responses. The idea here was to increase ATP production and increase nitric oxide production. Both of these help stimulate the production of neurotrophic factors. Luckily, we had a few sources of light therapy available. One was a class 4 hand held cold laser, and the other was a multi-wavelength LED light.

Luckily, I have worked with laser engineers and PhotoBioModulation for years. We felt the best results for Molly would be a combination of laser and LED light therapy. Infrared LED and laser therapy are both forms of phototherapy that use light to treat musculoskeletal injuries. While both treatments can be effective, there is no clear consensus on which treatment modality works better, as it can depend on a variety of factors, such as the specific condition being treated, the severity of the injury, and the individual patient’s needs and preferences. The class 4 laser has been my go-to for years, so we commenced treatments with it. The class 4 laser essentially had a wavelength of 660 nm. In nerve cells, 660 nm light has been shown to reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, reducing pain and improving function. That is precisely what I was looking for.

My other choice was the LightStim® hand-held light. We are delighted with the LightStim® bed in our office. I liked the handheld device because of the different wavelengths available. These wavelengths include 630, 660, 855, and 940 nm. Studies have shown that exposure to 855 and 940 nm near-infrared light can promote wound healing by increasing blood flow to the affected area, stimulating collagen production, and reducing inflammation. It has been used to treat various conditions, including diabetic ulcers, pressure sores, and surgical wounds. I like the infrared wavelengths since they will penetrate deeper.

The last part of the treatment consisted of some vitamin therapy.

We gave Molly a folate supplement daily. Folate stimulates a process known as DNA methylation, a natural biochemical process in which chemical compounds known as methyl groups are attached to DNA. I looked at some studies on folate and spinal cord injury. These studies suggest that folate seems to cause DNA methylation. Researchers have found that injured nerve tissue began producing surface receptors for folate. Folate fits into the receptors, as a key fits into a lock, and then is absorbed into the nerve cell. After folate was absorbed into injured nervous system tissue, the nerve cells began producing enzymes that attach methyl groups to DNA. Chemically blocking folate from binding to the nerve cells, or blocking the methylation enzymes, hindered the nerve healing process.

What is happening here is that DNA methylation is turning off specific genes. Typically, one would think that this would be adverse to healing. However, research has shown that a big swath of genes is turned off during regeneration. Initially, there was interest in what genes were turned on after a spinal injury. However, new research has shown that for the body to accomplish spinal regeneration, some genes must be turned on, but a lot must be turned off. This is precisely what DNA methylation does. It turns off large groups of genes. Essentially, we are practicing epigenetics.

So now you must be wondering: What happened to Molly?

On day 15 after her injury, my wife was walking Molly with the harness to support both legs. She put the harness down for a minute while I was leaving for my office and then Molly nonchalantly walked over to me on all fours, wagging her tail and licking me! The rest is history.   

My wife took Molly to the neurology veterinarian and he was shocked. He said keep doing what you are doing.

Today, Molly continues to zoom along!. When all is said and done, as far as I am concerned, this is a great success story for regenerative medicine…and Molly!

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