Drs. Rehman, March and the IU team identified several growth factors found in the stromal cells which cause the angiogenic effect.
Scientists worldwide are actively seeking factors that control angiogenesis to develop treatments for heart disease, stroke and dementias. Cancer researchers also are interested in controlling angiogenesis to stop the growth of blood vessels that feed malignant tumors.
"Of particular interest to the team was the way we predict the cells will react in the body," said Dr. March. "These cells release even more growth factors when placed in low oxygen conditions similar to those experienced by patients with poor circulation."
Dr. Rehman said the team called the cells "intelligent factories" because they can sense a need for more blood vessels and begin "manufacturing" the substances necessary to make those vessels.
"Instead of treating patients with a single growth factor, you could treat them by strategically placing their own stromal cells which respond to low oxygen and adapt to that need," said Dr. Rehman.
"For instance, if an individual who has impaired blood flow to the heart climbs a flight of stairs every day, his body will sense a need for more oxygen to the heart and the stromal cells would respond by releasing more growth factors."
"The process wouldn't work overnight but with time they would produce needed blood vessels to supply oxygen to the heart or to the legs," said Dr. March. "Stromal cell treatment ideally would allow the bodies of individuals with impaired circulation to compensate in the same way as the bodies of people who can grow their own blood vessels."