National study to test ability of stem cells to clear out arteries

Nathalie Tadena

A Feinberg School of Medicine researcher has launched a new study to see if stem cells can improve circulation in patients with severely blocked arteries, potentially saving them from limb amputation.

Dr. Douglas Losordo, the study’s principal national investigator, will remove stem cells from study participants’ bone marrow and transplant the purified cells into their leg muscles.

The stem cells will help grow new blood vessels and restore blood circulation in the leg.

All patients in the study suffer from critical limb ischemia, a condition that results from blockages in vessels and arteries.

“CLI causes poor blood flow to the leg and extreme pain in patients,” said Dr. David Zembower, administrative director for the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute.

Patients often experience pain when they are walking or sitting. They can also suffer from tissue damage, gangrene and wounds that do not heal. The condition, which affects 1.4 million people, can end in the amputation of a patient’s toes, feet or legs if it is left untreated.

More than 100,000 limbs are amputated due to the condition every year in the U.S.

“This will hopefully lead to the formation of new therapies for patients,” Zembower said.

Losordo is the director of the Feinberg Cardiovascular Research Institute and director of cardiovascular regenerative medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital .He came to Northwestern last year after spending 15 years teaching at Tufts University. He relocated to Chicago from Medford, Mass., with a team of about 17 researchers, The Daily reported last year.

Losordo said last year he hoped research in the cardiovascular unit would help patients who have exhausted all of their medical options.

The study’s first national trial will include 75 patients at 20 different sites across the country.

The first two subjects have already undergone the stem cell transplant process at Chicago’s Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Reach Nathalie Tadena at [email protected]