Reasons for performing study: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are commonly injected intralesionally for treatment of soft tissue injuries in the horse. Alternative routes of administration would be beneficial for treatment of lesions that cannot be accessed directly or to limit needle-induced iatrogenic damage to the surrounding tissue.
Objectives: The purpose of our study was to evaluate MSC distribution after intra-arterial (IA) and intravenous (IV) regional limb perfusions (RLP) using scintigraphy. We hypothesised that MSCs would persist in the distal limb after tourniquet removal and that both techniques would lead to diffuse MSC distribution.
Methods: Six horses were used in the study. MSCs were labelled with hexamethyl propylene amine oxime (HMPAO) and technetium-99m. RLP was performed through the median artery of one forelimb and the cephalic vein of the opposite limb under general anaesthesia. The tourniquet was left in place for 45 min. Scintigraphic images were obtained at 0, 45, 75 min, 6 h and 24 h post injection.
Results: Distribution of labelled MSCs through the entire distal limb was achieved with all 6 IA RLP, but 3 out of 6 IV RLP showed poor or absent uptake distal to the metacarpus. Mesenchymal stem cell persistence was 39% (30–60%) and 28% (14–50%) (median [minimum–maximum]) at 6 h for IA and IV RLP, respectively. Severe arterial thrombosis occurred in one horse after IA RLP.
Conclusions: Both IA and IV RLP of the distal limb result in MSC persistence in perfused tissues. The IA perfusion resulted in more reliable cell distribution to the pastern and foot area.
Potential relevance: Regional limb perfusion of MSCs might be used in cases where intralesional injection is not possible or in order to avoid iatrogenic needle damage. Further work is needed to assess the safety of IA RLP before its clinical use.