Equitom Opens State-of-the-Art Horse Clinic with its Own Stem Cell Laboratory

Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Equitom will be officially opening its new horse clinic in Lummen, Limburg, on 4 May. The horse clinic will have the most advanced equipment and the combination of the equipment and facilities form a unique site in Europe. There is good reason why Equitom will be established in Lummen: Limburg, after all, is the heart of the Belgian horse world. The central location close to the clover-leaf junction en-sures that the clinic can be reached easily from anywhere in Europe. Combination of systems and equipment is unique in Europe.

The horse clinic behind the horse surgeon Tom Mariën is unique in Europe. It has been built while paying special attention to sustainability and it is equipped with the most advanced technology.

It includes:

  • 2 operating theatres
  • 3 post-operative recovery rooms
  • 5 intensive care boxes
  • 55 hospitalisation boxes
  • 1 horse shower
  • 1 solarium

The clinic has its own extensive medical imaging unit that includes the following:

  • MRI (Hallmarq)
  • CT scanner (Toshiba)
  • Bone scan digital unit (MIE)
  • Ultrasound imaging (Aloka)
  • Radiography

The Hallmarq MRI is a standing equine scanner. There are approximately 70 of these devices worldwide and only two in Belgium, one of which is at Equitom. The device scans the lower legs of the standing horse.

The CT scanner is a device that is also used for people in hospitals. We use two systems at Equitom. On the one hand, a lift on which the horse simply remains standing. The lift with the horse drops into the ground and this ensures that the horse's head can be scanned. Scanning while the horse is standing is very unique for this part of Europe. In addition, we also have a system with a table that ensures that we can scan horses after they have been given general anaesthesia. This guarantees that restless horses can also be scanned. This combination of a CT scanner, either while the horse is standing or un-der anaesthesia, with the MRI and bone scan digital unit is unique. You will not find an-other horse clinic in Europe that is better equipped.

The MIE bone scan digital unit has been especially developed for horses. The whole in-stallation has been checked by official bodies such as Controlatom (inspection body in Belgium for physical control, dosimetry and medical radiation physics) and the FANC (Federaal Agentschap voor Nucleaire Controle; Federal Agency for Nuclear Control)

Pioneer in stem cell therapy with its own stem cell bank

In addition to his expertise in surgery, Tom Mariën is also a pioneer in horse stem cell therapy. His stem cell clinic for horses in unique in Europe and is famous internationally. Together with a scientist he developed different types of stem cells that means that the production of, for example, new cartilage cells becomes possible, which ensures that hors-es will recover more quickly.

Equitom has its own stem cell bank with different types of stem cells to produce:

  • Cartilage cells (arthrosis)
  • Tendon cells (treatment of tendinitis and tendon tears)
  • Skin cells (treatment of wounds that heal slowly as with, for example, Kastelino)

Own product development: dietary supplements against arthrosis

Arthrosis is a big issue with horses. Since using prostheses with horses is not an option, Tom Mariën has been researching and developing products against arthrosis for 10 years.

In an initial phase, Tom Mariën developed a dietary supplement with hyaluronic acid, colla-gen, chondroitin, glucosamine and a few spices. Horses do not feel the placebo effect and you can, therefore, perfectly assess whether a product has the desired effect. The Arti-Sport supplement was so effective in horses that very soon the request came to adjust this product and to launch it on the market for human consumption. In 2006, the first tests were performed and GlobalMedics was established. Arti-Forte was launched on the market in 2010. A medical device for people with joint problems. The launch of the dietary sup-plement very quickly received the attention of the Belgian press.

Ecology as a priority

The clinic is surrounded by 13 hectares of forest and paddocks where our horses can recover in an environment that is the most natural possible. The clinic was established while paying special attention to ecology and sustainability.

The clinic's heating system is a bioboiler where the horse manure is used as biofuel.

All rainwater is collected in large cisterns and reused. This ensures that valuable wa-ter is not wasted. All waste is carefully sorted and recycled. The site has its own water treatment plant. The garden around the clinic was landscaped as naturally as possible with native plants and shrubs.

Unique character of Equitom

The unique character of Equitom is, therefore, expressed through the following as well as the special infrastructure that offers limitless possibilities on a medical level:

  • The unique expertise and passion of Tom Mariën: the many years of experience and expertise of Tom Mariën are praised internationally. He carries out extremely complex operations that others do not dare perform.
  • The horse and its well-being have the highest priority: everything is based on the well-being of the horse.
  • Personal approach: despite the success and how busy he is, Tom follows up on every horse and tries to speak to people personally.
  • Transparency: Equitom strongly believes in continued transparency. Even operations can be attended by the owner of the horse.

Tom Mariën:

Owner and founder of Equitom, Dr Tom Mariën, is an authority in his field. He is known in Belgium among the general public as the vet who saved the foal Kastelino, but his exper-tise inspires colleagues worldwide. Tom Mariën dares to and can save horses on whom many others have given up.

  • Born on 1/10/1970 in Hoostraten
  • He graduated in 1994 from Ghent University with great distinction
  • 1 year as an assistant at the Surgery department of the faculty of Veterinary medicine
  • 3 years specialising in the USA
  • 2001 established the Equitom clinic

Operation technique and material innovation

Tom Mariën is the inventor of different new operation techniques that are now performed worldwide:

  • the keyhole surgery closure of the spleen-kidney space, a preventive intervention to pre-vent a specific form of colic, and
  • the keyhole surgery reduction of the internal inguinal rings in stallions to prevent an in-guinal hernia are but two examples,
  • Tom Mariën was the first vet who removed a kidney in a horse through keyhole surgery (laparoscopy)

Tom Mariën also cooperated with companies to create surgical instruments that ensure that certain operations are possible. He is the author of several publications regarding stem cells and surgery, is the co-author of a number of books about surgery and is a much sought-after guest speaker at international congresses.

Future plans

The new clinic has only just opened but Tom Mariën has more ambitious plans. He wants to expand with a training and rehabilitation unit with a swimming pool, aquatrainers, tread-mills and a spa in the near future so that horses can enjoy an adjusted training and reha-bilitation programme under professional supervision.

A few figures

  • Equitom employed 6 people until recently, but at the new infrastructure additional veteri-narians, veterinary assistants and other staff will be trained and employed.
  •  The total infrastructure has a total area of just under 1800 m2
    • Stables: 957 m2 
    • Clinic: 583 m2 
    • Horse walker: 250 m2