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Gene therapy and stem cells save limb
Date:12/8/2009

Blood vessel blockage, a common condition in old age or diabetes, leads to low blood flow and results in low oxygen, which can kill cells and tissues. Such blockages can require amputation resulting in loss of limbs. Now, using mice as their model, researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed therapies that increase blood flow, improve movement and decrease tissue death and the need for amputation. The findings, published online last week in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, hold promise for developing clinical therapies.

"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," says Gregg Semenza, M.D., Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and genetic medicine and director of the vascular biology program at the Johns Hopkins Institute for Cell Engineering. "Now, with the help of gene therapy and stem cells we can help reactivate the body's response to hypoxia and save limbs."

Previously, Semenza's team generated a virus that carries the gene encoding an active form of the HIF-1 protein, which turns on genes necessary for building new blood vessels. When injected into the hind legs of otherwise healthy mice and rabbits that had been treated to reduce blood flow, the HIF-1 virus treatment partially restored blood flow.

People with diabetes have a 40 times higher risk of losing a limb to amputation, says Semenza. To find out if HIF-1 gene therapy could improve blood flow in a diabetic animal, the team then tested the same virus in diabetic and non-diabetic mice that had blood flow cut off to one hind leg. Twenty-one days after treatment, the HIF-1 virus-treated mice had 85 percent recovery of blood flow compared with 24 percent in the mock-treated mice. And, treated, diabetic mice had much less tissue damage compared to the untreated diabetic mice. These resul
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Contact: Audrey Huang
audrey@jhmi.edu
410-614-5105
Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions
Source:Eurekalert

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