An estimated 10 million Americans are affected by the poor blood circulation -- generally in the legs -- of peripheral artery disease (PAD). It is caused by atherosclerosis, the clogging and hardening of arteries that can lead to heart attacks. Although about half of those with PAD have no symptoms, others report varying levels of pain and other symptoms including numbness and sores on the legs and feet.
Early treatment is similar to actions to prevent heart disease, such as a better diet, stopping smoking cessation, weight loss and if appropriate, cholesterol-lowering drugs. If the disease progresses, patients may receive an artery bypass graft or an angioplasty procedure that widens the blood vessel.
But as many as 12 percent of PAD patients cannot undergo such surgical procedures, and 30,000 to 50,000 people in the United States receive amputations annually due to PAD, said Michael Murphy, M.D. assistant professor of surgery and an investigator at the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine at the medical school, who is leading the stem cell trial. For many of these severely affected patients, their quality of life is similar to patients battling terminal cancer, he said.
The cells used in the IU trial include adult stem cells, which are "parent" cells that can create new specialized cells when needed by the body. In the IU trial, researchers are using stem cells -- and slightly more specialized descendants called progenitor cells -- that can create the cells that make up the lining of blood vessels.
In the clinical trial at IU School of Medicine, Dr. Murphy and his colleagues extract bone marrow from the patient's hip while the patient is under a general
Contact: Eric Schoch