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Adult Stem Cells Could Help Thwart Amputations

New stem cell research may take a step toward preventing amputations in people with diabetes, according to a new study out of Ireland.

The study, from the National University of Ireland, Galway, appeared in Diabetes, the American Diabetes Association’s official journal. Its research revealed that the use of adult stem cells has shown promising results in the treatment of diabetic wounds such as food ulcers, one of the primary causes of amputation.

Because the blood vessels in diabetic patients lose function, they have an impaired ability to heal wounds, especially with foot wounds, which impact up to 25 percent of those with diabetes at some point in their lifetime, and often lead to amputations.

The study looked at a particular type of stem cell, known as the mesenchymal stem cell (MSC), and found that when the cells were used with a biomaterial made from collagen, there was the potential for increased wound healing.

The study was led by Dr. Aonghus O’Loughlin of Molecular Medicine Ireland and Professor Timothy O’Brien of the Regenerative Medicine Institute at National University of Ireland Galway and Galway University Hospitals. Its results have allowed the team to apply for-and  receive-funding for human testing.

“MSC’s have many attractive therapeutic properties,” O’Brien said. “They can be isolated from adults and are easy to grow in the laboratory. It has been shown in Galway and by other scientists that they release special factors that can help new blood vessels to grow. Increasing blood flow is a key step in wound healing.”

A portion of the funding required for clinical trials has been provided by Diabetes Ireland, the researchers said.

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