Placenta cells may help people walk

November 1, 2010 9:57:30 AM PDT
Cells taken from a woman's placenta are helping people walk without pain. It sounds strange, but the experimental therapy may be a solution for the 8 million Americans suffering from peripheral artery disease. Plaque clogged the artery carrying blood to Ronald Davis' leg, which cut off oxygen flow. It's called peripheral artery disease. Left alone, it can cause ulcers, gangrene and even lead to amputation.

"There, at some point, it felt like the muscles were ripping out. It's just so painful," Davis said.

Davis began a last-ditch stem cell therapy at Duke University. His leg was marked for 30 injections totaling millions of stem cells. For him, there was no other choice.

"There really isn't an adequate therapy," said Christopher Kontos, M.D., cardiologist, Duke University, Durham, N.C.

Cells are taken from the placentas of Israeli women who've given birth. Once injected, they secrete proteins, which boost additional cell growth. Then, it's believed those cells may contribute to the growth of additional vessels around the plaque, circumventing the blockage.

"We are looking for something else to do to prevent an amputation or help healing," said, Manesh Patel, M.D., cardiologist, Duke.

Three days after injections, Davis was walking, and doctors say the oxygen level in his leg tissue jumped from 43 percent to 67 percent.

"I have these feelings in it now, feels like it's healing," he said. "This has given me more light at the end of the tunnel, like I'm through the tunnel now."


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