A study under way in Mesa — and around the country — may reveal that a person’s own stem cells can be used to save dying limbs.
Banner Heart Hospital and Banner Research are taking part in the MarrowStim PAD Study sponsored by Biomet Biologics, a medical device company based in Warsaw, Ind. The company has created an investigational device that can separate and concentrate stem cells from bone marrow while the patient is in the operating room.
The idea of using a person’s own stem cells has merit, said Barbara Lambeth, research director of the cardiovascular service line for Banner Health Arizona. It’s already being tested by Banner Sun Health Research Institute with the heart. Surgeons can remove healthy heart stem cells, grow them in a hormone bath and place them back in the patient. There, they either repair or regrow blood vessels (researchers aren’t sure which it is, Lambeth said).
The difference with the Banner Heart Hospital’s study is the stem cells will be harvested and reinserted while the patient is on the operating table.
What’s needed now with the current study are qualifying patients.
Banner is looking for people who suffer from PAD (peripheral arterial disease) who have exhausted all other methods of reintroducing circulation in the troubled limb, such as angioplasty or stents, said Dr. Henry Tarlian, a vascular surgeon and principal investigator at Banner Heart Hospital.
“This is an option that may work for those patients that have no other options,” Tarlian said. “We’re looking for (patients) with markedly diminished blood flow to the foot that causes pain or they have ulcers on their foot that are not too big or if things aren’t too far advanced.”
Peripheral arterial disease appears in about 10 percent of the population in their late 50s or early 60s, Tarlian said. Diabetes is often to blame, but it can also be found in patients who suffer from high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
“There is also a strong genetic predisposition for people with this type of problem,” Tarlian said.”
The disease becomes “progressively problematic” as people get older, he said.
Patients who are screened and qualify will either be given their own stem cells during surgery or a placebo. They must then be available to come to Banner Heart Hospital to follow up, Banner’s Lambeth said. Patients will remain under the health care of their personal physicians.
The entire procedure takes about two hours from the time the patient and surgeons enter the operating room. Once there, bone marrow is harvested from the patient’s hip bone and placed in Biomet’s device. The stem cells are separated and then immediately injected into the patient’s leg. The patient can go home the next day.
There are many advantages to the idea of using a person’s own stem cells, Lambeth said.
“The patient isn’t going to reject it. There’s no moral or ethical issues. It’s your own stem cells. There’s no rejection. There’s no risk of infection,” Lambeth said.
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