UT professor uses technology to save baby alpaca

(Courtesy: University of Arkansas at Little Rock via WATE)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (WATE) – A young alpaca has a new chance at life thanks to researchers at the University of Tennessee and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Hercules broke his leg at a ranch in Lebanon, Tennessee, when he was only 24-hours-old.

He needed a plasma transfusion and to be bottle-fed for months. However, his health became worse due to an open wound and an exposed bone which led to an infection.

Hercules’ veterinarian sent him to the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine for treatment.

UTCVM’s Dr. Pierre-Yves Mulon decided to treat the young alpaca with the NuCress scaffold.

The NuCress was developed by UA Little Rock’s Dr. Alexandru S. Biris and UTCVM’s Dr. David Anderson. The technology is implanted at the wound site and can be filled with drugs, hormones or stem cells to fight an infection and help with bone growth.

“Hercules responded well and fast,” Mulon said in a press release. “He was able to walk immediately after surgery and has been very active. The bone repaired within the time range expected for a closed fracture, though it was an open one.”

Hercules was not the only animal Mulon was able to help with the technology.

Recently, the assistant professor was able to treat a prize breeding cow in the rodeo industry.

The cow was a genetic founder of its herd and had a chronic bone infection in her leg.

Mulon thought the animal might not heal from her injury. However, she did.

“I strongly believe that the slow release of antibiotics over a prolonged period of time [by the scaffold] helped this cow tremendously and led to the successful outcome,” Mulon said. “I have not seen any product comparable to this one.”

Researchers received a grant over $5 million from the Department of Defense and hope to make advancements in the technology to help more animals and humans.