Northwestern Medicine Investigates Using Stem Cells to Save Limbs from Amputation

Posted: April 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm

CHICAGO, April 2, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --After surgery failed to relieve extreme pain caused by peripheral artery disease in her right leg, Denise Hopkins-Glover was facing a bleak outlook she might never walk again.

"They said they had done everything they could and the only option was amputation of the right leg from the knee down," she said.

Undeterred, Hopkins-Glover chose to participate in an investigational trial at Northwestern Medicine called the MOBILE Study, which makes use of a device called the MarrowStim PAD Kit. In the trial, a randomized group of patients receive injections of their own stem cells retrieved through a bone marrow extraction to try to restore blood flow to the leg.

"MarrowStim offers a new approach for patients with a grim prognosis," said principal investigator Melina Kibbe, MD, a vascular surgeon at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Edward G. Elcock Professor of Surgical Research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We're pleased to be part of this national trial to see if there might be a significant chance of improving treatment for patients with few choices left for treatment."

Hopkins-Glover, a 55-year-old grandmother of two, suffers from peripheral artery disease (PAD), a condition affecting 20 percent of Americans where cholesterol and fatty plaque pool in blood vessels, restricting blood flow to the limbs. In its most severe form, PAD causes critical limb ischemia (CLI), which can cause pain in resting legs, sores or ulcers that don't heal, thickening of the toenails and gangrene, which can eventually lead to amputation.

The Chicago resident worked as a phlebotomist before her PAD worsened, and had to stop working because she could no longer walk or stand for extended stretches of time.

"I can walk only a certain distance before the circulation stops getting to certain parts of the body," she said. "It feels like a terrible leg cramp, like a jabbing, stabbing pain."

During the procedure, patients are put under general anesthesia as bone marrow is harvested through a needle from the hip. The bone marrow is loaded into the MarrowStim PAD Kit, an investigational device, where it is processed in a centrifuge. This spinning separates the marrow into different layers, with one of the layers containing the stem cells. Immediately following the separation, the stem cells are injected in 40 different spots on the affected limb, delivering concentrated bone marrow in each one. The entire procedure takes about 90 minutes. Patients follow up with investigators at different intervals in the year following the injections.

Karen Ho, MD, a Northwestern Medicine vascular surgeon who is also an investigator on the trial, said the exact reason the bone marrow injections might help chronic limb ischemia is still a mystery.

"Nobody really knows the exact mechanism," said Dr. Ho, who is also an assistant professor in vascular surgery at Feinberg. "The idea is that it might improve or enhance new blood vessels in the calf."

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Northwestern Medicine Investigates Using Stem Cells to Save Limbs from Amputation

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