January 02, 2015

Cord blood banking is not just beneficial to your children when they are a baby. Many diseases commonly found in adults are also being treated with stem cells from cord blood, as well as bone marrow. A new stem cell treatment is currently being studied for one of those adult diseases, Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).

PAD is a painful condition of the legs in which the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the lower extremities become narrowed or blocked, leading to muscle atrophy, poor circulation, numbness and difficulty in healing (for sores, ulcers, etc.) More than 8 million Americans have with this disease, which puts them at a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. PAD’s prevalence increases with age, and other risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, contribute to the likelihood of its development. Currently, PAD is treated with medications to improve blood flow, usually with minimal results, and the condition requires surgery in severe cases.

To understand its treatment, it is important to know what causes the disease. The body contains millions of tiny blood vessel-forming cells found in the vessel lining called endothelium, which are constantly breaking down and renewing into new blood vessel cells. But, as the body ages, those cells begin to lose the ability to bounce back and multiply, leading to deteriorating blood vessels. This can result in conditions such as PAD. Researchers theorize that if younger, healthier blood could be introduced into the body, it could regenerate the cells’ ability to regrow the blood vessels, thereby restoring a healthy blood flow throughout the legs.

To test this theory, researchers took pluripotent stem cells, which are found in high numbers in umbilical cord blood, and developed an innovative method to make them quickly mature and take on the characteristics of the endothelial colony-forming cells that are found in the blood vessel lining1. They then injected the cells into mice, where they soon multiplied into human blood vessels and restored blood flow to the mice’s damaged tissues, including those in the legs. In a little under three months, the researchers observed that for each original endothelial cell introduced to the tissue in the lab, more than 100 million new cells were created.

This marks the first time that significant numbers of the cells have been produced in a lab, enabling the continued study of this new method. The next step for the researchers is to secure permissions for clinical trials with the cord blood stem cells and approval for human testing. This methods holds promise for treatments of additional diseases concerning blood flow complications.

  • Researchers Develop New Cells Meant to Form Blood Vessels, Treat Peripheral Artery Disease. The Science Times. Published October 13, 2014. Found online http://goo.gl/JTRTCa
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