THURSDAY, Feb. 23, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Stem cell injections might someday be used to treat a debilitating cardiovascular condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD), researchers say.
People with PAD have poor blood circulation -- especially in the legs -- and can suffer sores, ulcers and even amputations. PAD is caused by a clogging and hardening of the arteries, and patients may need surgical procedures such as angioplasty or an artery bypass graft to widen narrowed blood vessels.
However, as many as 12 percent of PAD patients can't have these surgical procedures. That's why researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis are investigating the use of stem cell injections to promote blood vessel repair and the growth of new blood vessels.
"We think this is a very promising treatment that could help patients with severe peripheral artery disease for whom there is now no effective therapy," Dr. Michael Murphy, an investigator at the Indiana Center for Vascular Biology and Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
He and his colleagues are using adult stem cells -- which can create new, specialized cells -- along with progenitor cells, which can create cells that make up the lining of blood vessels. The stem and progenitor cells are extracted from a patient's bone marrow and then injected into the patient's leg.
Patients taking part in the study will receive one injection, and then be evaluated over a three-month period. They're checked for indicators such as blood vessel growth and wound healing. Seven patients have already had the procedure, and Murphy and his colleagues expect to test the therapy in three more patients.
Previous laboratory tests and studies in animals indicated the injections of the adult stem and progenitor cells led to the development of new blood vessels.
If this trial proves the procedure is safe, the next step would be to test it in a larger group of patients.
The American Medical Association has more about PAD.