Stem cell therapy grows new blood vessels

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By Communications Staff
Monday, April 6, 2009
Research led by David Hess of the Robarts Research Institute at The University of Western Ontario has identified how to use selected stem cells from bone marrow to grow new blood vessels to treat diseases such as peripheral artery disease, which is a severe complication of diabetes.
 
Hess drew human bone marrow and simultaneously isolated three different types of stem cells that co-ordinate together to form new blood vessels called pro-angiogenic stem cells.  These cells were purified to remove any inflammatory or contaminated cells, and then injected into the circulation of mice which had one of their leg arteries ligated and removed. 
 
The researchers showed how these stem cells have a natural ability to hone in on the area of ischemia to induce blood vessel repair and improve blood flow.  Hess says this research is clinically-applicable because they studied the function of human stem cells in immune-deficient mice.
 
Reduced blood flow (ischemia) in a person’s limbs can lead to resting pain, trouble with wound healing and in severe cases, amputation. The research is published in “Blood.”
 
 The preclinical data from Hess’ research was used by a biopharmaceutical company, Aldagen to receive FDA approval for a multi-center clinical trial now underway in Houston, Texas, involving 21 patients with end-stage peripheral artery disease. 
 
“We can select the right stem cells from the patient’s own bone marrow and put them back in the area of ischemia to allow these cells to coordinate the formation of new blood vessels.” says Hess, a professor in physiology and pharmacology at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. 
 
“These principles could be applied not only to ischemic limbs, but to aid in the formation of new blood vessels in ischemic tissue anywhere in the body, for example after a stroke or heart attack.”
 
The research was funded by the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Aldagen Inc. and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

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