• horse;
  • mesenchymal stem cell;
  • bone marrow;
  • sternum;
  • orthopaedic cell-based therapy


Reasons for performing study: Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) therapy for orthopaedic disease is being used with increasing frequency; there is a need to define a safe, reliable and effective technique for the recovery of MSCs from the sternum of the horse.

Objectives: To describe an optimised safe technique for obtaining bone marrow-derived MSCs from the sternum of the Thoroughbred horse.

Methods: The anatomical relationship of the sternum with the heart and internal anatomy was demonstrated in cadavers. Sternal anatomy was evaluated ultrasonographically and after midline sectioning. Sternebrae were examined histologically after aspiration to determine the effect of needle insertion. The quality of the aspirate was evaluated as the number of colony-forming units from sequential and separately aspirated 5 ml aliquots and assessed for their multipotency using trilineage differentiation.

Results: The optimal safe location for the needle was the 5th sternebra because it had a safe dorsoventral thickness and was cranial to the apex of the heart. This sternebra could be reliably identified ultrasonographically. Aspirates could also be obtained from the 4th and 6th sternebrae, although the former is between the front limbs and the latter closer to the heart. Minimal disruption of the internal bony architecture was seen after needle insertion through the thin outer cortex and the first 5 ml aliquot contained the greatest number of colony-forming units of mesenchymal stem cells with trilineage capabilities.

Conclusions: Accurate placement of a Jamshidi needle into the medullary cavity of the 4th–6th individual sternebrae is facilitated by the use of ultrasonography and enables aspiration of bone marrow reliably with minimal damage to the sternum and risk to the horse.

Potential clinical relevance: Sternal marrow aspiration as described is a safe and reliable technique to obtain MSCs for orthopaedic cell-based therapies.