“ Were pushing the boundaries.....The scope for improving patient outcomes is tremendous.”
Dr Sanjay Patel, Cell Therapeutics Group
Dr Sanjay Patel, Leader of the Cell Therapeutics Group
Heart disease is virtually inescapable in western society. One third all deaths in Australia relate to atherosclerosis – when fatty deposits clog and harden the arteries leading to heart and blood vessel disease. It is more a question of ‘when’ not ‘if’ you or someone you know will be affected.
Once it would have sounded like science fiction. We have recently begun pushing the boundaries of what is possible with our newly established research team, the Cell Therapeutics Group, whose focus is discovering stem cell therapies to effectively reprogram cells. “The aim of this is to create ‘copies’ of those cells damaged in patients with blockages in the blood vessels of the leg and heart, so they can be replaced with healthy tissue,” says group leader, Dr Sanjay Patel. “The scope for improving patient outcomes is tremendous.”
“The eventual aim is to potentially use stem cells in patients who have arterial blockages in the legs or even in the coronary arteries, to allow them to make new blood vessels,” says Dr Patel. “These people have chronic pain, or they have pain when they walk, because not enough blood is going to the leg. They’re the sort of people that initially we’re likely to be able to help.”Stem cells are immature cells that have not yet decided what to be – whether heart muscle, brain cells or skin cells, and so on. They are central to a baby’s development and after birth a few remain in tissues like the bone marrow. Because they are the body’s chameleons, stem cells hold incredible promise as a therapy. Following a heart attack, for instance, stem cells could be introduced then coaxed into regenerating and healing damage that would normally be irreversible.
It is also hoped that injected stem cells could form new vessels to re-route blood flow around an arterial blockage and lower the risk of life-threatening complications like strokes.
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