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Stopping Peripheral Artery Disease With Stem Cells

Posted on December 1, 2017


Bioengineers at the University of Illinois have found a way to grow new blood vessels for individuals suffering from peripheral artery disease: stem cells. The researchers used mesenchymal stem cells, or MSCs, to regenerate new blood vessels in mice with surgically narrowed arteries.

Peripheral artery disease is a common side effect for people with diabetes, a disease that affects more than 12 million people in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association.

A Complication of Diabetes

Peripheral artery disease happens when inflammation causes the arteries to narrow, which reduces blood flow to the extremities. This means the organs and tissues in the extremities do not get the oxygen and other nutrients necessary for survival.

Another complication of PAD are infections caused by wounds and skin ulcers on the legs and feet that are slow to heal.

Conventional treatment for PAD includes compression socks and exercise to improve circulation, and for more severe cases, the surgical placement of vascular stents or arterial bypass surgery.

If left untreated, infections caused by PAD may become so severe that the patient requires amputation of an extremity.

In the University of Illinois study, researchers took the MSCs from muscle tissue of young mice and injected them into mice with narrowed arteries. Another group of mice received saline injections instead of the MSCs.

Reducing Inflammation, Improving Blood Flow

After the injections, the researchers monitored the growth of new blood vessels and circulation in both groups using imaging.

Their findings showed that MSCs increased the development of new blood vessels. As a result of the new blood vessels, the blood flow of the mice treated with MSCs was increased.

Researchers also found that the MSCs repaired damaged muscle tissue, too.

Not only were researchers able to grow new blood vessels, but they were also able to reduce inflammation in the mice who received the MSCs. The mice that received the saline injections had gene expressions showing the body was trying to mitigate their condition, such as increased levels of inflammation.

The UI researchers are also hopeful about future studies that could identify different types of MSCs that may be more powerful in treating PAD, as well as how long MSCs work to repair tissue after injection and their overall effect on the immune system.

According to stem cell experts, mesenchymal stem cells develop into the bones, muscles, cartilage and tendons of the body. They also develop into the blood vessels and teeth, so they are useful for treating a wide array of health conditions.

Dr. Joel Singer uses personal cells to treat a variety of illnesses and injuries. He uses liposuction to harvest cells from adipose fat tissue.

“The procedure takes less than an hour to collect enough cells for treatment,” Singer said.

This regenerative treatment gives more support to damaged tissues and reduces inflammation and pain faster than therapies that use smaller numbers of cells, he said.


University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Stem cells from muscle could address diabetes-related circulation problems.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2017.


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