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IU Researchers Join National Network Testing Stem Cell Therapies for Cardiovascular Disease


Keith March, MD/PhD Professor of Medicine Cryptic Masons Medical Research Foundation Professor Indiana Center for Vascular Biology in Medicine Photograph by: John R. Gentry

The IU School of Medicine is one of seven members of the network, which will receive $63 million from the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the National Institutes of Health to study the use of adult stem cells to treat heart and blood vessel disease.

“This selection highlights the accomplishments of our centers in the field of translating vascular stem cell research from the laboratory into patient trials,” said Keith L. March, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Vascular and Cardiac Adult Stem Cell Therapy Center and the Roudebush Veterans Affairs Center for Regenerative Medicine.

The clinical trial in Indianapolis will begin recruiting patients June 1, said Michael P. Murphy, M.D., assistant professor of surgery and co-primary investigator with Dr. March, and co-director of the centers.

Participation in the Cardiovascular Cell Therapy Research Network, which is funded for seven years, will bring IU between $550,000 and $1 million per year to support the research, depending on the number of patients participating in the trials.

An estimated 10 million Americans are affected by the poor blood circulation – generally in the legs – of peripheral artery disease. It is caused by atherosclerosis, the clogging and hardening of arteries that can lead to heart attacks. Although about half of those with peripheral artery disease have no symptoms, others report varying levels of pain and other symptoms including numbness and sores on the legs and feet. Moreover, 30,000 to 50,000 people in the U.S. undergo amputations annually due to peripheral artery disease.

The cardiovascular network trial in Indianapolis will focus on patients with moderate severity peripheral artery disease who have pain while walking. The trial will test whether adult stem cells, when injected into the patient’s leg, will stimulate the production of new blood vessels and reduce the symptoms of peripheral artery disease.

Dr. Murphy is also leading a separate clinical trial of stem cell therapy to treat more severely affected peripheral artery disease patients who have pain while at rest and are at risk of amputation. That trial is being conducted at 30 sites around the country, including Indianapolis.

“This grant builds on seven years of research by investigators in our center, and it points the way for us to tackle future clinical studies of stem cells to treat such diseases as stroke, arthritis, diabetes, emphysema and renal failure,” Dr. March said.

In addition to peripheral artery disease, the national network is evaluating the benefits of using adult stem cells to treat heart attack and heart failure. Other members of the cardiovascular research network are at Stanford University, Texas Heart Institute, the University of Louisville, University of Florida, University of Miami and Minneapolis Heart Institute / Mayo Clinic.

For more information about the IU clinical trials, call 317-278-6585.