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New Treatment for Peripheral Arterial Disease

A radiologist Frank Wacker at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in
Baltimore said that bone marrow stem cells which have the ability to
renew themselves can help to treat peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
with cell-based methods. Bone marrow stem cells are suspended in
X-ray-visible microbubbles; they provide potential treatment for
patients with peripheral arterial disease.
PAD is a chronic disease that progressively restricts blood flow and
causes poor blood circulation in the legs. If left untreated, it can lead
to serious medical complications (heart attack, stroke, amputation and
It could be possible to use adult stem cells extracted from a healthy
donor's bone marrow and inject the cells into the patients' legs where
circulation problems exist. The process will stimulate the growth of
new or more blood vessels in the leg. Scientists used an animal model
and found that with such a treatment the body was able to provide a
normal blood supply to the toes. It could help to avoid
amputation by treating individual patients.
More than 10 percent of the PAD patients cannot be treated with
typical methods to reopen the arteries, such as angioplasty or stents.

A lot of people can manage symptoms of PAD and stop its progression
through lifestyle changes. But if this is not enough, additional
medical treatment may be needed, including prescribed medicine to
prevent blood clots, lower blood pressure and cholesterol and control
pain. Interventional radiologists treat severe cases of PAD with
minimally invasive treatments, including angioplasty and insertion of

Hopkins researchers used a technique that encloses stem cells derived
from bone marrow in an alginate capsule or microbubble made from
seaweed to create factors to build new vessels. The method was tested
in a rabbit model. Bubble prevents the body's immune system from
reaching and attacking the transplanted cells. Because the microbubble
protects the stem cells from being destroyed, there is the potential
to provide this therapy similar to blood transfusions.
The doctors continue to test the treatment in animals and make attempts
to perfect methods using non-invasive imaging (magnetic resonance
imaging (MRI), ultrasound and blood pressure measurements). In the future
it could be used to follow up patients without exposing them to X-rays
or needing to enter a blood vessel to inject dye to see the newly
formed vessels.