6 February 2009
By Pushpa Narayan
Stem cells help save man’s leg from amputation
Adult stem cells extracted from the patient’s bone marrow have been found to cure several ailments, but a therapy for regeneration of blood vessles hold out bigger hopes.
The department of vascular surgery at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College Hospital and Research Institute in December 2007 has used adult stem cells to trigger growth of new blood vessels in the limbs of at least 30 patients who suffer from critical limb ischemia – a condition of blood vessels in the limb getting blocked, often resulting in amputation.
When SRMC doctors told a 64–yearold diabetic patient in December, 2007 that that they had reversed their decision to amputate his leg, medicos gathered to see what could be the saviour for the limb ischema patient. It was the first case of the clinical study the hospital had begun in association with Lifecell, a private stem cell bank. Eight weeks after the procedure, the patient started walking, without pain. The procedure was peer reviewed last month.
The SRMC patient had already lost his right leg and the big toe from his left leg to the disease. “At that time, we were sure that his left leg too had to be amputated. The arteries were getting increasingly blocked and blood supply was less than 30%,” recalls chief vascular surgeon DR. K Vijayaraghavan.
The doctors then removed 240 ml of blood from the bone marrow. From it, 40 ml with a high concentration of stem cells was collected. After an angiogram, doctors injected this blood, rich in stem cells into 40 spots between his knee and foot.
“These spots were along the blocked arteries. In four weeks, his pain came down. In eight weeks, he could walk. By the 12th week, he could get back to his daily routine with no trouble,” says DR. Vijayaraghavan. The hospital repeated the procedure in 33 other patients, who were all suffering from critical limb ischemia. The department presented the results of clinical trial at the peer reviewed conference of cardiovascular Research Foundation in New York in January.
According to DR. V Balaji, vascular surgeon, Apollo Hospitals, the treatment till some years ago was amputation. “Now, science is demonstrating that adult stem cells regenerate ischemic arteries by stimulating angiogenesis in the areas of damaged tissue, thereby restoring proper blood circulation to the limbs,” he said.
Chennai gets India’s first public stem cell bank