Peripheral artery disease affects millions of people in the United States. It’s basically hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) leading to problems with getting enough blood to the limbs. Symptoms of severe PAD include leg pain that doesn’t go away once exertion stops and wounds that heal slowly or not at all.
Lifestyle changes, medication and surgery can address some cases of PAD, but often the disease is not recognized until it has advanced considerably. At Emory, cardiologist Arshed Quyyumi has been exploring whether a patient’s own bone marrow cells can repair the arteries in his or her limbs.
Bone marrow contains cells that can regenerate all the kinds of cells that form the blood — and possibly, cells that can replenish the linings of blood vessels, too.
Quyyumi has been a pioneer in testing whether a patient’s bone marrow can help repair the heart after a heart attack. With this study on PAD, no transplanting is going on. Instead, patients are injected with a growth factor (GM-CSF) already used to restore white blood cell numbers in cancer patients. The idea is: the growth factor might be able to nudge progenitor cells out of the bone marrow and into the circulation, where they can repair damaged blood vessels.