A new gel therapy could help regrow blood vessels in diabetic patients with ischemia.

Ischemia is a painful and potentially debilitating condition caused by a reduction in blood flow. The condition itself can either be acute or chronic. Ischemia often occurs in the heart, which can result in heart attacks and peripheral artery disease. The American Heart Association said that PAD can lead to a loss of both mobility and sensation, most frequently in the arms and legs. The AHA also added that PAD is especially prevalent in people with diabetes, and can result in amputation if left untreated. More research is now being done to better combat peripheral ischemia as it relates to diabetic individuals.

A growing trend

In the February 2016 edition of Advanced Healthcare Materials, a University of Texas at Austin team unveiled an innovative new injectable healing gel. The compound features two key ingredients meant to alleviate blockages. The first is a modified growth factor that facilitates blood vessel growth and thus prevents any various impediments. The second are a series of proteoglycans; the Medical Biochemistry Page explained these sugar-containing proteins help with cell migration, structure and stability.

In an accompanying press release, lead author Aaron Baker said that the gel is injected directly into the leg, where blood vessels begin to regenerate in short order. There are already several forms of treatment available for PAD and other similar conditions, including bypass surgery and physical therapy. However, Baker explained that because the gel solution grows new vessels, it’s faster and more reliable than having to rehabilitate damaged or dying vessels.

He also mentioned that while other research teams have tried to regrow blood vessels – a process referred to as angiogenesis – they haven’t been nearly as successful. That might because other gels or solutions didn’t utilize the same vital proteoglycans that the Austin team implemented. So far, Baker and his teamed have used the gel on laboratory mice with both ischemia and diabetes. While other treatments had a success rate of 60 percent, Baker’s team reached 85 percent recovery in most mice subjects.

To continue their research, the Austin team was awarded a $2.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. With the grant, the team will be able to move one step closer to human clinical trials and eventually a commercially available therapy. Baker said he biggest issues they have before moving onto human trials are determine the proper dosing and finding a way to maximize the gel’s growth abilities.

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