Researchers in Japan have shown that sufferers of painful limbs could find relief from their own stem cells. The team discovered that stem cells injected into 45 people with severe blood circulation problems in their legs led to the creation of new blood vessel networks, a process called angiogenesis.
In two studies involving 20 and 25 patients respectively, participants were injected in one leg with bone marrow stem cells and in the other leg with saline solution. The treatment appeared to increase the creation of blood vessel networks, leading to the elimination of pain in 16 out of 20 stem cell injected legs and the prevention of toe amputation in 15 out of 20 legs.
At present, the researchers are unable to say whether the bone marrow stem cells became blood vessel cells or simply encouraged other cells to make new vessels. Once some of these basic questions have been answered, the researchers hope that the stem cell therapy might, in the future, be used to treat heart attacks and strokes, which are both caused by severe blood circulation problems.