This approach could have impact far beyond vWD. Endothelial cells derived from blood could also be isolated and reinjected into someone recovering from a heart attack, to help them grow new blood vessels and repair the injured heart tissue. Dr Starke says this approach avoids the main problem with transplant therapies, in which the immune system tries to destroy the foreign material. "The patients would receive their own cells, so they wouldn't face the problems of rejection," he said.
Work is well underway towards achieving this goal, but blood-derived endothelial cells are only now being explored. "There are already many studies where patients have been injected with stem cells to see whether damage to the heart could be repaired, and there are some promising results," says Dr Randi. "The door is open to such treatments, and our studies are a step towards identifying the right cells to use."
The group's previous research has already thrown up pointers for potential new treatments. Aside from producing vWF to form clots, endothelial cells are responsible for forming new blood vessels. In their last paper, the group showed that vWF is actually needed to build healthy blood vessels. Some patients with vWD suffer severe bleeding from the gut because defects in vWF cause their blood vessels to develop abnormally. "There are drugs already being used in other diseases which target abnormal blood vessel, that could be useful to stop bleeding in some vWD patients," says Randi. "Nobody would have thought of using them to treat vWD, but by testing them on the patient's own endothelial cells , in the laboratory, we can find out if these drugs work before giving them to the patient."
Scientists are now interested in the possibility of using endothelial ce
|Contact: Sam Wong|
Imperial College London