A safer way to regenerate blood vessels

Regenerating blood vessels

A patient’s own blood cells may regenerate blood vessels damaged by heart attack or peripheral artery disease, and the method may be safer and less arduous than using rare stem cells.

Recent trials have shown that a patient’s bone marrow cells support the growth of nearby blood vessels. “Based on this idea, we wanted to identify a population of cells enriched with the capacity to regenerate blood vessels,” says Emory cardiologist Young-sup Yoon.

Yoon and his team focused on the molecule CD31, found on the surface of some endothelial cells lining the inside of blood vessels. Using donated blood from volunteers or mouse bone marrow cells, the researchers showed that cells with CD31 secrete hormones that support the growth of blood vessels. In the lab, cells with CD31 formed tubular structures that mimicked the growth of blood vessels.

Harvesting cells with CD31 may have several advantages over stem cells, Yoon says. The cells can be prepared without the need to grow them in a dish for several days, and large volumes of patient’s blood or bone marrow may not be necessary. 

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Emory Medicine Winter 2011