November 24, 2010 – Researchers at Northwestern are utilizing a patient’s own stem cells to regenerate heart and vascular tissue, offering a potential new treatment for cardiovascular disease. Northwestern Medicine is the lead site for a study examining stem cell transplantation as treatment for critical limb ischemia.
"Traditionally, cardiovascular medicine has focused on repairing damaged tissues with medication or surgery," said Douglas Losordo, M.D., director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute and chief investigator of the study. "For some patients, their cardiovascular disease is advanced to the point that standard treatment options are not effective. Regenerative cardiovascular medicine strives to redevelop cardiac and vascular tissue and stimulate new blood supply to areas like the heart and legs by using stem cells already present in the patient's body."
Losordo's limb preservation study examined the effectiveness of stem cell therapy in limb preservation for patients with critical limb ischemia (CLI). CLI develops in patients with severe obstruction of the arteries, which limits blood flow to the extremities. The trial tested the ability of CD34+ cells to stimulate new blood vessel formation in ischemic limbs, which can improve perfusion and salvage function.
The phase II, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial had a total of 28 patients randomized at 18 U.S. sites. The patients enrolled in this study were in the later stages of peripheral artery disease and at heightened risk for amputation. Patients in the randomized group had CD34 injected at eight locations in the ischemic limb and were followed for 12 months.
"Stem cell treatment was associated with a significant reduction in amputation rate," Losordo said. "Treatment was associated with a 50 percent reduction in the total amputation rate compared to control. Although further study is needed, these results provide evidence that CD34 cell therapy is an effective treatment for critical limb ischemia."
Losordo and his team are bringing the field of stem cell therapy for cardiovascular conditions to the forefront of medicine.
"The results of this study are encouraging and provide evidence for that stem cell therapy can significantly repair cardiac and vascular tissues," he said. "As study of stem cells continues, I believe we're on the verge of a rebirth in the practice of medicine. Using a patient's own cells to regenerate their body has enormous potential to treat conditions that have previously been considered irreversible."
For more information: www.nmh.org