Growing New Blood Vessels
ATLANTA (Ivanhoe Broadcast News) -- Atherosclerosis: It's what will ultimately kill most of us. It's the build-up of plaque in the arteries, leading to stroke, heart attack, and eventually death. When arteries in the legs become blocked -- a condition called peripheral vascular disease -- getting around can be painful. Now, breakthrough research is allowing patients to grow new, healthy blood vessels!
What's hard work for most of us is the good life for 77-year-old Tom Reynolds.
"It's peaceful. It's serene," he says. But life on the farm became difficult last year.
"I would have a shooting pain that would hit me right in my buttocks."
Tom had peripheral vascular disease (PAD), where the arteries supplying blood to his legs became blocked. Left untreated, gangrene can occur.
Doctors told Tom there was nothing they could do for him, and he had visions of life in a wheelchair. "It's most depressing thing you can ever experience," he says.
"It can be pretty devastating," says Arshed Quyyumi, M.D., a cardiologist at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. "The options are very limited often. This is how amputations occur."
Then Tom found out about Dr. Quyyumi's study on a new option -- a growth factor called GM-CSF. When injected into patients, it stimulates bone marrow to release stem cells -- helping the body form new blood vessels.
"The implications, I think, are very exciting because one way we think that cardiovascular disease progression can be impeded and even reversed is by improving your blood vessel function," Dr. Quyyumi tells Ivanhoe.
That means fewer heart attacks, strokes, and amputations.
"It's just like an additional life, really," Tom says. He continues enjoying his time on the farm with his son, Tim, and has replaced his visions of wheelchairs with a new scene -- walking with the horses.
Study results showed patients' blood vessel function improved by up to 60 percent. They were also able to exercise longer without pain. Larger studies are needed before GM-CSF would become widely used. Doctors say this concept could potentially be applied for blocked arteries carrying blood to both the heart and the brain.
This article was reported by Ivanhoe.com, who offers Medical Alerts by e-mail every day of the week. To subscribe, go to: /newsalert/.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Arshed Quyyumi, M.D.
550 Peachtree St.
WW Orr Bldg.
Atlanta, GA 03038