I am currently working at Michigan State University as an Assistant professor. ​I am a critical care veterinarian with a strong interest in exotic species and wildlife. I received my PhD in 2020 at Colorado State University. During my 10 years at CSU I developed a protocol to grow mesenchymal stem cells from blood from elephants and giraffes and have treated multiple exotic species including elephants, giraffes, large felids, bears, monkeys, Sichuan takin and multiple other species.  Over the past ten years I have been investigating the effects of mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) as a therapeutic modality for various disease processes including multidrug resistant infections, immune-mediated disease and arthritis.  I have worked with animal models trying to elucidate the mechanisms by which these cells exert a therapeutic effect and additionally have participated in several clinical trials in dogs and exotic species with a variety of inflammatory diseases including multidrug resistant infections and osteoarthritis.  With systemically administered allogeneic (same species different animal) MSC adverse reactions are rare similar to what is documented in humans. My current research interests include investigating the potential anti-viral effects of mesenchymal stem cells and comparison of MSC and therapeutic effects between species.

Dr. Valerie Johnson

Post-Doctoral Fellow at Colorado State University

Dr. Valerie Johnson is a post-doctoral fellow at Colorado State University and per diem faculty in the small animal critical care service at CSU James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Dr. Johnson is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care (ACVECC) and completed a microbiology residency at CSU in 2012. Dr. Johnson is currently preparing to defend her thesis focused on the use of mesenchymal stem cells in biofilm infections and multi-drug resistant infections as well as utility of this therapy in the treatment of osteoarthritis both in animal models and clinical trials with canine patients. Dr. Johnson has an interest in exotic species and works part-time providing veterinary services at The Wild Animal Sanctuary. She has developed MSC lines for a variety of novel species and is currently conducting clinical trials for the use of MSC to treat osteoarthritis in megavertebrates and large carnivores. Currently Dr. Johnson’s research is conducted at the Translational Medicine Institute at Colorado State University.

Using Preactivated Mesenchymal Stem Cells to Treat Multi-Drug Resistant Infections in Dogs

Monday, September 9, 1:30 PM – 2:00 pM


Over the past several decades antimicrobial resistance has increased, in part due to overuse of antibiotics. These infections currently have limited therapeutic options, often resulting in extensive surgery, limb amputation, or death. New pharmaceutical agents are of limited value as the bacteria develop resistance to new therapeutics faster than new agents can be developed. Novel treatments are needed to enhance immune clearance of infection thus circumventing the ability of bacteria to develop resistance to antimicrobial drugs. Mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) have been demonstrated to have antimicrobial activity and studies in our lab have demonstrated clearance of biofilm infections not responsive to antibiotic treatment when pre-activated stem cells were combined with antibiotics. We hypothesized that pre-activated mesenchymal stem cells (aMSC) would be effective at clearing multi-drug resistant (MDR) infections in vitro and in vivo. Results of these studies suggest that aMSC do have anti-bacterial activity against MDR infections and can be effectively utilized to treat infections in which conventional therapies have failed.