University of Sheffield scientists use stem cells to treat arthritis in gorilla in world first

Scientists used the stem cell treatment to treat the gorilla at Budapest Zoo Credit: University of Sheffield

Scientists from the UK have formed part of a team using stem cell therapy to treat arthritis in a gorilla for the first time.

Liesel the gorilla, an elderly matriarch at the Budapest Zoo, had been finding it hard to walk on her left leg leading to worries she may have osteoarthritis, a degenerative process which is irreversible.

Current treatment focusses on controlling symptoms rather than treating the disease itself.

Scientists, including experts from the University of Sheffield, did an assessment of the gorilla's major joints and then used stem cells alterations in her left hip and knee joints to treat the condition.

Scientists from the University of Sheffield were part of an international team using stem cell treatment Credit: University of Sheffield

The treatment has been piloted in several animal species in recent years, including in dogs and horses as well as in small-scale clinical trials in humans.

Liesel is thought to be the first primate in the world to receive the stem cell therapy.

Professor Endre Kiss-Toth, from the University of Sheffield, founded a company called Stem CellX, which made up of international scientists working on stem cells to treat arthritis.

He said: "It has been a great privilege to be part of this word-first collaboration and bring together Stem CellX expertise in stem cell technologies, with the internationally leading clinical skills and knowledge in osteoarthritis pathogenesis of the University of Sheffield to provide a novel treatment option for Liesel to improve her quality of life in her golden years.

"We are now following her recovery closely, in the hope to see marked improvement in her movements and in the use of her osteoarthritis affected leg."

Stem CellX is now developing a similar treatment for humans.

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