Whiskey, an 80-pound Munsterlander dog living in San Francisco, is one of only a handful of dogs to undergo an experimental reconstructive procedure to regrow their jaws. About a year ago, vets found a lump in Whisky’s lower-right jaw, a tumor diagnosed as oral cancer. The normal course of treatment would be to simply remove the jaw, but Whisky’s owner Tom Swierk stepped up.
“We told our doctor that we wanted the best. Whatever it is. Whether it’s in California, New York, wherever it is, we will go there,” Swierk said.
The best was just a few towns over, at UC Davis’ famed Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital. Two oral surgeons and a biomedical engineer had a procedure they’d been perfecting — they’d done it only five times — using cutting-edge biomedical technology to regrow jawbones in dogs who have lost bone due to cancerous tumors.
“It was a large defect,” said biomedical engineer Dan Huey, according to UC Davis. “It was the largest defect we’ve worked with. It was 6 centimeters.”
“A major part of the jaw needed to be amputated,” said surgeon Boaz Arzi. “About half of it.”
In the old days, such a defect would be left alone after removing bone from the jaw, said surgeon Frank Verstraete.
“These days we reconstruct the defect by means of a plate and a scaffolding that contains bone morphogenetic protein,” he said.
According to UC Davis:
Once the diseased section of bone is taken out, the titanium plate is screwed into place on the remaining bone. A stiff, sponge-like chunk of scaffolding material, soaked in a bone growth promoter known as bone morphogenetic protein, is then inserted into the space where the bone was removed. The growth-promoting protein stimulates the dog’s remaining jawbone to grow new bone cells, eventually filling the entire defect and integrating with the native bone.
“Within two weeks after the procedure, you could feel bone forming under the skin, and by three months we had new bone that was very similar in density to that of the native bone,” Huey said.
Nine months later, Whisky was back on the beach playing.
UC Davis now has eight of these surgeries completed, with all the dogs doing well, with well-formed, functional jawbones.
Whisky’s grateful owner, for one, believes the procedure will eventually aid people.
“This surgery was not offered a year ago,” said Swierk. “It’s cutting edge, and it’s probably going to help humans some day.”
Via SF Appeal