Dogs and cats suffering from diabetes have to deal with the same tedious daily treatments as humans. Most need insulin shots and specific diets. Sadly more than 1 million pets suffer from diabetes in the U.S. alone, but now one startup from Kansas City is hoping to help animals struggling with the disease.
Fred and Joan Schwartz volunteer three to four times a week at Wayside Waifs, a not-for-profit humane society and animal welfare organization. They said their dog, Champ, taught them how to love all pets, although sadly he recently passed away. When Champ passed the couples veterinarian asked them a question that they didn’t realize at the time would change their entire future.
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Fred says that he remembers well when Dr. Pickett, their vet, asked if the couple would be willing to donate Champs organs to other pets in need. They had heard of humans doing this, but didn’t realize that the procedure was possible in canines as well.
Pet organ donation is actually a newer concept that was born in Kansas City by a company called Likarda. It is a biotech company founded by entrepreneurs and scientists at the University of Kansas. They are the leading regenerative medicine company for companion animals.
Currently they are performing research that will hopefully help pets, and maybe even humans eventually, who are dealing with diabetes. Researchers are using cells from healthy pancreases, like the one donated by Champ, to perform their studies. Champ’s pancreas was the first donation that the company received.
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Karthik Ramachandran, co-founder of Likarda, says that the traditional way of treating a canine is the same as treating a human; daily shots of insulin and a controlled diet. Unfortunately it is much harder to monitor in pets. Normally shots are given twice a day at the same time.
By studying the healthy pancreas cells, Ramachandran and her team are hoping to create a one-time injection treatment for pets with diabetes. The injection would go into the animal’s bone marrow and Ramachandran says that within 24 hours the dog would no longer need insulin injections at all.
Likarda has also created Cheri’s Hope, a network for pet organ donation where their partners can find families like the Schwartz’s who are looking to donate their pets’ organs. Fred schwartz says that he and his wife have told all their pet-owning friends to donate. He says that even if your companion is gone, at least you know they’ve given something of themselves to help another family’s beloved pet.