View Full Version : Stem cells + Gene Therapy = new blood vessel growth

10-06-2009, 02:37 PM
By Rob Waters

Oct. 5 (Bloomberg) -- Researchers fused two technologies, stem cells and gene therapy, to trigger the growth of new blood vessels as a treatment for mice with heart disease.

A biodegradable carrier called a polymer was engineered by scientists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and ferried genes into stem cells. The genes promoted the release of chemicals called growth factors that helped the stem cells survive in the mice and create new blood vessels, said a study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Stem cells drawn from bone marrow and muscles are being widely tested in patients with clogged or damaged arteries in their heart and limbs to grow new blood vessels and improve circulation. Such experiments have had limited success, said Daniel Anderson, a biomedical engineer at MIT who led today?s study. The new approach was an attempt to augment the power of stem cells, he said.

?A lot of the animals got healthy again when they were treated with these stem cells,? Anderson said in an Oct. 2 telephone interview. ?It shows that stem cells modified with growth factors work a lot better in triggering new blood vessels and increasing blood flow to damaged areas.?

The technology avoids the use of viruses to deliver genes to their target, the approach most commonly used in gene therapy, Anderson said. Viruses can be risky because they may integrate into the genome of cells and linger permanently, potentially causing cancer or immune reactions.

The technique will need further testing to ascertain its safety before it can be tried in people, Anderson said. He hopes to begin human trials in a couple of years, he said.