December 9, 2009

USA: New gene therapy and stem cells save limbs

. BALTIMORE, Maryland / United Press International / Science News / December 9, 2009 U.S. scientists say they have developed an experimental therapy that eliminates blood vessel blockage associated with old age or diabetes. Johns Hopkins University medical researchers say blood vessel blockage can lead to low blood flow, resulting in low oxygen, that can kill cells and tissues. Such blockages can require amputation resulting in loss of limbs. In their new study, the scientists used mice as a model to develop therapies that increase blood flow, improve movement and decrease tissue death and the resulting need for amputation. "In a young, healthy individual, hypoxia -- low oxygen levels -- triggers the body to make factors that help coordinate the growth of new blood vessels. But this process doesn't work as well as we age," said Dr. Gregg Semenza, a professor of pediatrics and genetic medicine. "Now, with the help of gene therapy and stem cells we can help reactivate the body's response to hypoxia and save limbs." He said the study is promising because it shows a combination of gene and cell therapy can improve the outcome in the case of critical limb ischemia associated with aging or diabetes. "And that's critical for bringing such treatment to the clinic," he said. The study was detailed in last week's early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. [rc] © 2009 United Press International, Inc.