Colorado State College of Veterinary Medicine studies chronic kidney disease in cats

Cats with failing kidneys are wanted for a study which will look at how stem cells can help treat renal failure, otherwise known as chronic kidney disease.

Stem cells used in the study are extracted from the fat of research cats, according to Dr. Jessica Quimby. The fat is then grown in a lab, where it is expanded to the amount of cells needed.


Some benefits of the stem cells will make for better renal function and lessened kidney inflammation, according to a press release.

Quimby said that the stem cells will treat the actual problem — inflammation — while current methods only take care of side effects.

The study consists of five appointments for participating felines. The first and fifth appointments are a Glomerular Filtration Rate (GFR) test to assess kidney function. The other three consist of intravenous stem cell injections.

A smaller group of cats would act as a control group and receive a placebo drug, according to the press release. This group can choose to get stem cell after the study’s conclusion.

“[The] treatment is well tolerated by the cats and that they stay one day in our area specified for cats only,” said veterinary technician and research assistant Amber Caress. “They need to come in multiple times for treatment but the few owners that I have spoken to seem very excited to have their cats participate in such a cutting edge study.”

In the previous two trials cats experienced nausea and quick breathing during the intravenous procedure. In the current trial, however, Quimby said the cats “seem to tolerate it pretty well.”

Participation is open to 20 cats and will remain so until all spots are taken or until the grant’s end one-and-a-half years from now. Elderly cats with chronic kidney disease who don’t have other illnesses or conditions will be accepted.

“It really is a unique opportunity,” Quimby said.

Stem cells are blank cells which can be used to “regenerate and repair diseased and damaged cells,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

Chronic kidney disease, or renal failure, occurs when the kidneys cease their natural function of ridding the body of waste and retaining water.


“It’s the opposite of what kidneys are supposed to do,” veterinarian Heidi Patterson said.

Current methods of treating renal failure include intravenous (IV) fluids and subcutaneous fluids, which are administered under the skin, to replace lost hydration. Phosphate binders to suppress excess phosphate in the body and appetite stimulants are also used.

Symptoms of the condition include “increased drinking, urination, weight loss and decreased appetite” according to Patterson.

The study is funded by a grant from the Morris Animal Foundation with support from Frankie’s Fund for Feline Stem Cell Research.

Collegian Writer Devin O’Brien can be reached at